The GOAT . . . His Airness
The one simply known as MJ. He is considered by many to be the greatest player to ever play the game of basketball.
"Sometimes I dream . . . that he is me . . . Like Mike! If I could be like Mike!"
Many fans take the jingles they've heard, the movies they've watched (Space Jam, Come Fly With Me), and the sneakers they've worn, couple that with the oft regurgitated stats and accolades and multiply it by Jordan's dominance of 90's basketball.
After all that, they come to the conclusion that Michael Jordan was beyond any doubt the best.
By most accounts this is accepted as fact. There is no problem with the opinion that Michael Jordan is the greatest of all time.
There are certainly opinions that hold a lot less credibility. The problem comes when people make him out to be more than what he was.
Michael Jordan was a phenomenal athlete with unparalleled drive and determination. His competitiveness and work ethic is matched by only a legendary few.
He was media savvy. He helped make the NBA a global product and he was truly a great winner.
What he was not.... is perfect.
Common perception is that Michael Jordan was the model teammate. It will tell you that he excelled at building his teammates up and bringing out the best in those around him. Nothing could be further from the truth.
One incident has Michael Jordan riding Bill Cartwright on a particularly bad night for Cartwright.
In the locker room Michael Jordan resorted to trying to embarrass Cartwright in front of the team. He was offensive to the point that afterward, Cartwright pulled him to the side and said
"Look, if you ever do anything like that again, you will never play basketball again because I will break both of your legs."
You probably never heard about that though, because MJ can do no wrong.
Another incident includes an actual physical confrontation with a teammate. The Bulls were in practice when Will Perdue laid a hard screen on Jordan. Imagine someone playing hard in practice!
This did not sit well with His Airness. He was infuriated to the point where he felt it necessary to punch Purdue in the face. Yes, you read right. To PUNCH HIM IN THE FACE.
Imagine if you will, an article comes out tomorrow that features a story about Kobe Bryant punching Pau Gasol in the face because he set too hard of a screen at practice.
Imagine LeBron James punching one of his nice guy teammates in the face like say, Zydrunas Ilgauskas. Imagine what the initial reaction and backlash would be if this happened once...now multiply it
Not only did Jordan get physical with Will Perdue, he also felt the need to punch Steve Kerr in the face! Jordan and Kerr were known to have two different opinions on the Collective Bargaining Agreement that was being voted on.
Kerr was a Players Union leader while Michael wanted to dissolve the Union. They had many heated discussions about the subject. One day during a practice, Steve Kerr was guarding Jordan.
Kerr was reportedly playing tough defense on Jordan- too tough for Jordan's liking. So much so, that he felt the irresistible urge to punch Steve in the face. And he followed through with it.
A Model citizen indeed. Not once, but twice did he feel that it was excusable to physically attack his TEAMMATES.
You can imagine the reaction to anyone that was considered the face of the league today (Kobe, LeBron, Durant) attacking their teammates. Everyone would have a field day crucifying them. But not so for His Airness... his reputation gets a pass.
Some would say that Michael Jordan seemed unbeatable. And that's not too far from the truth. But if you talked to some people in the many forums and comment columns of basketball, you would think he actually was!
Some act as if he went 50 for 50 in every game, that no one could score on him and that the Bulls won 182-13 in every game that they played!
Obviously these are ridiculous and far fetched to one who knows basketball and thinks intelligently, but some are so blinded that they refuse to acknowledge anything less...
When you bring up Jordan in comparison to today's superstars and champions, many people rush to Jordan's defense citing that he played in an era where the quality of player was much better.
And with the likes of Magic, Kareem, Bird, Isiah Thomas, etc, And that is undeniable. He did play at the same time as those players...but he never BEAT them! At least not at their peaks!
Ask anyone what the golden age of the NBA was and they will surely say it was the 80's because that's when all the aforementioned players were at their best.
So why did it take Jordan till the 90's to win? Who gets credit for just being in the same league?
Not until The Bad Boy Pistons were injured and Magic had HIV could Jordan overcome his "competition" for his first title.
This is how his resume reads for his years in the NBA when the competition was at its highest
84-85 First Round Loss to the Milwaukee Bucks 3-1
85-86 Swept First Round By Boston Celtics
86-87 Swept First Round By Boston Celtics
87-88 Second Round Loss to Detroit Pistons 4-1
88-89 Second Round Loss to Detroit Pistons 4-2
89-90 Eastern Conference Finals Loss to Detroit Pistons 4-3
After the golden age of the 80's is when Jordan was able to take advantage of these former stars, now all old or injured, and take over the league.
One gets so tired of hearing that "Jordan would find a way to win". It makes you wonder why he didn't find it sooner against the best competition.
Michael Jordan also had his share of off the court problems and personality issues. If you haven't heard about it, let me enlighten you.
Michael Jordan is famous for his competitive nature. This took the form of a very expensive gambling habit. Jordan at one point had ran up gambling debts into the millions of dollars.
In 2005, Jordan talked to Ed Bradley of the CBS evening show 60 Minutes about his gambling and admitted that he made some reckless decisions.
Jordan stated, "Yeah, I've gotten myself into situations where I would not walk away and I've pushed the envelope. Is that compulsive? Yeah, it depends on how you look at it. If you're willing to jeopardize your livelihood and your family, then yeah."
I'm no millionaire, but if you have as much money as Michael did and you are gambling enough to "...jeopardize your livelihood and your family..." you are doing some serious gambling.
One thing that is also not very well known about Michael Jordan is that he is a womanizer.
He engaged in these type of activities to the point where his wife, 17 years and 3 children later, divorced him, taking $168 million with her (the most expensive divorce ever, just in case you were wondering)
Jordan was petty beyond petty at his hall of fame speech.
He also successfully conspired to keep Isiah Thomas off the 1992 Dream Team. Why? Because he didn't like him. The Pistons had denied him over and over in the 80's and a grudge had developed.
Michael Jordan is anything but the perfect role model some make him out to be...
Michael Jordan was an amazing player and no once can take that away from him. He is considered the best because he dominated the 90's while excelling on both ends of the floor. He was as good on defense as he was on offense.
As great a defender as Jordan was as an individual, he was probably the third best defender on his team during the second three-peat behind Rodman and Pippen.
Drawing the 3rd offensive option on the other team every night leaves a lot of energy for scoring.
This allowed Jordan to save himself for the offensive side of the floor which, when combined with the defense of ALL-NBA defender Pippen and ALL-NBA Defender and pound for pound best rebounder of all time Rodman, allowed the Bulls to go for the historic 72-10 run.
Yet somehow these two and the other teammates he had are made to look like mere role players who just happened to be on the roster while Jordan was winning those titles by himself in the 90's... Some deserve the title role player, some do not. One thing is for certain
Jordan had help.
Michael Jordan is the greatest basketball player ever. There is no denying that.
He is also the most overrated.
For as good as Michael Jordan was, he is not perfect.
He missed shots. He lost games. He made mistakes.
There is nothing wrong with any of above. What is wrong is that people deify him and build him up to be some type of god who could do no wrong on or off the court.
Michael Jordan is Human.