Jordan disappoints during crowning achievement


This past weekend taught us once and for all that if we’re going to expect celebrities to be more than they are, we better be prepared to be disappointed. Kanye West, a man convinced he’s the voice of a generation, proved that Sunday night when he decided to embarrass Taylor Swift at the VMAs. Serena Williams proved it when she made a fool of herself at the U.S. Open, acting like the spoiled country club brat she was never supposed to be. And worst of all, there was Michael Jordan, the greatest basketball player in history, proving that’s all he’ll ever be.

On the surface, what Jordan did at his Hall of Fame induction doesn’t compare to Kanye humiliating a wide-eyed teenager in front of the world or Serena’s childish antics on her sport’s biggest stage. But then you have to remember that West and Williams don’t ever belong in the same sentence with Jordan. Kanye is a successful musician. Jordan is the Beatles. Serena is a world-class champion. Jordan is Sampras and Federer combined.

We expected the most from Jordan. We got the worst.

I couldn’t wait to watch MJ’s induction speech Friday night for one reason: Of all the great memories I had of him, the one thing I didn’t remember was his voice. By the time I became a big sports fan, Jordan had already turned his back on most of the media. He didn’t need ‘em. He had established a brand bigger than any newspaper, much less some reporter or columnist. So, like Babe Ruth did 70 years before, he hand-selected the people he was willing to talk to and they pledged their allegiance to him.

What we were left with was Jordan in cuts. 30 seconds here, some commercial there. But never any substance. His motto became, “never piss off someone who might write you a check,” something that has become commonplace in sports today.

That wasn’t the case in Springfield, where Jordan decided to deliver a resentful, bitter-sounding speech that would have left a lot of people embarrassed had it been someone else speaking. Instead, most in attendance, including Michael Wilbon of the Washington Post, summed it up in two words: “That’s Michael.”

Jordan uncensored took shots at the high school coach who didn’t pick him for varsity and the player who was selected over him. He blasted Jerry Krause and Bryon Russell and suggested that he still hasn’t gotten over Dean Smith not allowing him to be on the cover of Sports Illustrated his freshman year at North Carolina.

If that was Michael, we’ve all been duped.

If that rant was fueled by anything but a few too many drinks, then we should all be disappointed in the man we made our hero.

More than anything, it proved that basketball is all Jordan will ever be defined by. We remember Ruth for more. We remember Ali for more. But Jordan is the epitome of what William C. Rhoden calls the $40 Million Dollar Slave, though he made much more than that in his career. He was controlled by the people at Nike and Gatorade every step of the way, no matter how often it appeared otherwise.

On Friday night, he finally got the chance to send a message. And he did. Just not the one we were looking for.


Chris 1:09 PM, September 16, 2009  

Kind of disagree here. What more do we remember Ruth for? Simply baseball. He isn't Ted Williams or Joe D or any player who went to war during the prime of their careers.. In fact Ruth was an alcoholic and out of shape. Say what you want about him but all 99% of people know him for is baseball. And Ali.... most only know whim for Boxing, now if you said Foreman, I would agree.

Chris 1:11 PM, September 16, 2009  

"Sometimes when I reflect on all the beer I drink, I feel ashamed. Then I look into the glass and think about the workers in the brewery and all of their hopes and dreams. If I didn't drink this beer, they might be out of work and their dreams would be shattered. I think, it is better to drink this beer and let their dreams come true than be selfish and worry about my liver."

Babe Ruth

Rob 4:47 PM, September 16, 2009  

Chris, you are wrong here. Ali was one of the most famous people to stand up against a terrible war. And Ruth was definitely protected by the media, but he also spent a lot of time at hospitals and donating to youth groups.

Get your facts straight about Ted Williams. He tried to avoid going to war at all costs and only went because of the backlash from the fans and media in Boston. Yes it turned out that he was a good pilot, but he had no intentions on serving his country.

What you should have gotten on Dan for is the fact that what Jordan said wasn't really a big deal. He was clearly joking.

fan of Dan 7:16 PM, September 16, 2009  

Michael Jordan is/was the best basketball player of any era though his speech at times was uncomfortable,especially talking about his sons an daughters. Although, the piece with I.Thomas was great since he was the leader of the freeze out, which he proved what type of a person he was later on in his life. Also the Dean Smith comment was a joke do the fact he new what the rule was for freshman, they took a back seat. The running joke was who was the only person to keep Michael under 20pts ......Dean Smith.

Anonymous 12:14 AM, September 17, 2009  

I agree with your take on the Jordan speech. Unfortunately Chris and Rob are clueless and the joke is on them.Jordan was rude, vindictive and showed his true measure of a man and it was severely lacking.

People with no moral compass, compassion, or sense of dignity will brush aside Jordan's boorish behavior as being Jordan or just joking or his competitiveness.

Those who have values know the damage he did to his legacy. As you accurately said, he sent a message, just not one we expected or wanted in a role model.

Patrick 7:54 AM, September 17, 2009  

I agree with the post. I loved Jordan, hew as an amazing player. However his talk was so selfish. I wish he would not have done it. I would have liked to see him go out as champion not a selfish little kid. It shows that all humans are flawed and we should not put our hope in any man, but in the God/man Jesus Christ.

My father's son 2:59 PM, September 17, 2009  

Compare & contrast Jordan's speech with David Robinson's.

Basketball is 1% of life for most of us. The fact is, Jordan was the greatest to play the game, bar none. But being the best at what amounts to a hobby for the rest of us is pretty small.

I'd rather my kids grow up knowing humility (and being terrible at sports) than be as good as Jordan and filled with such arrogance.

Chris 1:48 AM, September 18, 2009  


What facts have I gotten wrong? The post was merely about how he will be remembered, as the greatest player in basketball history and how we remember Ruth and Ali for more. We don't remember Ruth and Ali for more. We remember them for being icons of their sport, plain and simple. Ask 100 people what Ruth did and they will tell you baseball. Ask 100 people what Ali did, they will say box. As people what Jordan did and they will say basketball.

You don't think Jordan does charitable things? Sorry he didn't get on his soapbox, like many athletes these days feel is their given right because of popularity (a la Curt Schilling) and speak out about politics. Jordan has given more to charity in monetary worth than either Ruth or Ali did. Sure count inflation or whatever but Jordan has done more with his money than those guys did.

And a quote from an American Icon--

Former senator and astronaut John Glenn had Williams as his wingman on combat missions in Korea.

"There was no one more dedicated to this country and more proud to serve his country than Ted Williams,'' Glenn said.

So I don't know where you pull these facts about Ted Williams out just to prove your point.

Rob 1:04 PM, September 18, 2009  

On Ted Williams... one of the great sports pieces ever written and it talks about how he had no intention on joining the service

Of course the average person is only going to know Jordan or Ali or Ruth for only sports.

But people who are in sports or historians know that Ruth and Ali meant more to the outside world than Jordan ever has.

Jordan is known for being a womanizer and a gambler. Read Rick Reilly's latest article on espn. He says it too

Anonymous 1:27 PM, September 18, 2009  

The more I see of his speech, the more I wonder if he was not in a lucid frame of mind. Thank those you should thank, inflect a little humility and humor and get off the stage! Great basketball player, yes. Impressed with his off court persona? Not so much

Chris 6:32 PM, September 18, 2009  


This will be my last response on this topic because we apparently just wont agree.

I don't understand what you are getting at with Williams (That article was more of a mini-biography with an agenda to sell). My buddy's dad was great friends with Williams and they used to fish often. The fact is Williams could have received an easy assignment and played baseball for the Navy, Instead, he joined the V-5 program to become a Naval aviator.

The point of this is to say that Jordan will only be remembered for basketball whereas Ruth/Ali wont. Search the web for Babe Ruth and I have no idea where you guys get these facts that he is more than baseball. Find me something that stands him a part from any other player who has donated money or gone to the hospital?

You want to talk about Williams not wanting to go to War... In 1967, Ali refused to serve into the U.S. military (and you claim Williams refused as well) based on his religious beliefs and opposition to the war in Vietnam. He was arrested and found guilty on draft evasion charges, stripped of his boxing title, and his boxing license was suspended. (Sure he said he couldnt fight because of his religion but that is an easy cop out. If you are part of this country you defend this country when your country asks). People began to support him because as in any war you will have people who are for and against it.

So next time you want to call me "Wrong", get your facts straight. When I've made my life writing for sports and working in Sports it is ok for you to debate my points, but to simply refute what I have to say without providing legitimate reason is asinine and does not make you right.

I am a friend of Dan's and was simply offering my point of view. Jordan was a gambler, Ruth was a drinker, and Ali was more arrogant than both combined. Each player has their flaw but each will be remembered for what they did in the sports, no more no less.

Anonymous 4:52 AM, October 18, 2009  

The Greeks had two words for excellent:

Bellistros = perfection of the physical

Aristos = perfection of the person

They can mix, but that is not to be expected. We look to sports for the perfection of the physical. Look elsewhere for the perfection of the person. Kids need to be taught this lesson. They can grasp it. Making "models" of athletes is a bad idea.

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