You should have taken the draw, folks. There will never be another like “his airness.”
Stop looking, America, just stop. He came, he played, he dominated and he left the game. He did not leave room for a doppelganger. The only way any of us ever see Michael Jordan doing what he did best will be to watch YouTube highlights or ESPN Classic reruns.
Well, I suppose if he gets the Ted Williams treatment...but I digress. No more Michael Jordan—ever!
Every kid with talent that comes into the league gets tabbed as the "next Michael Jordan.” Since Jordan's first retirement, we’ve had a plethora of candidates: Grant Hill, Allen Iverson, Kobe Bryant—all have held the comparison. The current contenders are Dwyane Wade and LeBron James—contenders to a throne, that will never be vacated.
I’m sorry, folks, but the fact is that these guys are being unfairly judged to a standard they just can’t compete with. Why can’t we judge them as individuals? Why does Bryant have to be compared to Jordan? Kobe Bryant is—ready for this?—the next (wait for it) Kobe Bryant.
Now, I will admit I have a bias. I hate comparing athletes. I hate it. No two are truly alike. Sharing a similarity or two does not make the above gentleman anything like Michael Jordan. Just because a player can score 30 points per game, possesses amazing athleticism or can single-handedly ruin Orlando’s chance of being a title contender doesn’t make him the next Michael Jordan.
Who is the next Michael Jordan?
It doesn’t even make him the next Darko Milicic.
Twenty-five years from now, will the NBA even exist? Of course it will, and the funny thing is, a bunch of lazy sportswriters will still be looking for someone to “be like Mike.” Desperation for his replacement has led to looking for friends in low places. Drowning in whiskey is the only excuse for a comparison between Jordan and Harold Miner (no really, the only excuse). It doesn’t get any more apples to oranges than that one, true believers.
Sports are a funny animal. Sports fans have to find a comfort zone to appreciate an athlete. That comfort zone is almost always a comparison to a great, or a critique of a player striving for greatness. Hit a bunch of home runs? The next Babe Ruth. Win a few Super Bowls? Joe Montana. Someday when MMA gets ginormous, we’ll be looking for the next Fedor Emelianenko.
Can a fan not be a fan, a writer not be a writer, without comparing emerging player A to established greatest player B? Is it really that difficult? Apparently it is since no player can be even halfway decent without Jordan’s name tossed at him.
Unfortunate as it is to those of us that watched him play live, Michael Jordan is retired. He traded his sneakers for loafers, his jersey for a suit and tie, his Hanes for, well, OK, I’ll stop, but you all get the point. There is not going to be another Michael Jordan. There was only one. There can be only one. That goes for all great players, whether that great player is Michael Jordan, Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West or Isaiah Rider (I couldn’t resist another one-time "next Jordan" comparison).
The next Michael Jordan is not playing right now; he won’t play in the future. He played his game and moved on.
We should all do the same. Jordan was the greatest player of his generation. Someday LeBron James may be his, but for every greatest is another waiting in his wings. Michael Jordan can only truly be compared to Michael Jordan. Kobe Bryant can only truly be compared to Kobe Bryant. To compare the two to each other is really to diminish the greatness of both. Is that fair to either player?
However, luckily for those of you not swayed by my article, I have found what you seek. The search is over. We found the next Michael Jordan. You can watch him play basketball after you watch some 13-year-old kid play "the game of the century" in chess.
Hey, that kid's pretty good. If you're a chess fanatic, you may want to find the next one of that guy.