Who will be the next Michael Jordan?
Basketball fans can’t get more than five minutes into a conversation without bringing up the subject.
Could it be Kobe Bryant? LeBron James?
Or could it be a 14-year-old kid who spent his entire summer out on the playground working on his game from sunup until sundown in the hopes of making this year’s varsity squad?
By nature, most people are perpetual optimists. This is particularly true of sports fans who often suffer heartbreak and defeat along with their teams for years on end.
For that reason, the question most often asked is “Who will be the next Michael Jordan?” and not the more relevant question “Will there ever be another Michael Jordan?”
Kobe and LeBron each contain traits similar to those Jordan possessed during his prime. However, that’s not to say that either of them are the next Michael Jordan, or will even come close to accomplishing what Jordan accomplished both on and off the basketball court.
Jordan is the type of player that comes along once in a generation, if not once in a lifetime, and completely transcends the game and sports in general.
Jordan’s stamp on the game of basketball reaches far beyond his MVP awards and his NBA titles.
Jordan’s high-flying athleticism changed the way the game is played.
His personality, worldwide fame, and ability to stay out of the back of a cop car made him a corporate sponsor’s dream.
What Arnold Palmer and Mark McCormack did for athletes' off-the-field earning potential in the '60s, Jordan took to a completely new level during the '90s, and now Tiger Woods is following along in Jordan’s footsteps.
Heck, many of Woods’ biggest sponsors are companies Jordan put on the map, such as Nike and Gatorade.
Every now and again in sports, a player comes along with a rare combination of talent, inner drive, and personality that is unlikely to be duplicated.
There will only be one Babe Ruth.
There will only be one Muhammad Ali.
And there will only be one Michael Jordan.
There have been better baseball players than Babe Ruth, yet no player has ever had as large of an impact on the game.
Mike Tyson may have been as good as or even better than Ali, but Ali transcended the sport of boxing in a way that Tyson was still benefiting from 30 years down the line.
Ali turned boxing matches into all-out entertainment spectacles. He knew that great entertainment would draw the masses to the sport, and that the money would follow.
Michael Jordan turned basketball into a worldwide sport, changed the way in which the game was played, and has paved the way for the multi-million dollar endorsement deals current NBA players so thoroughly enjoy.
Someone may come along one day and score more points than Jordan or win more NBA Championships than him. But will anyone ever impact the game as much as Jordan did?
It may happen one day; just don’t expect it to happen anytime soon.