There’s hullabaloo in the air about Michael Jordan finally joining the Hall of Fame – he naturally deserves it. This story here then – the one you’ve stumbled upon while traipsing the vast Internet desert – is about that induction to an extent, but not in the way that you would expect.
The NBA has been the NBA for 62 years, that’s a lot more than I’ve been I or you’ve been you, (probably*). Many a basketball-playing man has, over the course of this regime, come and gone, dibsing spots in history and shotgunning their place in the record book along the way.
We’ve heard tales of 100-point games, 11-championship careers and white guys with mustaches battling epically against smiley black guys. We’ve seen the grainy footage of courts with no three-point line, read the box scores of yesteryear and deliberated intensely over who the 50 best players of all time are and were.
But generally speaking, none of that matters. That nor anything other than Chicago Bulls-era Michael Jordan.
In 30 years from now, nobody will remember George Mikan anymore than they do now, let alone care any deeper for Jerry West or Oscar Robertson. We won’t tip our hat to the by-then-late** David Stern’s unflinching business acumen in the 80s, 90s or 00s, or thank Shaquille O’Neal for showing us that playing professional sports for a living is 95% of the time hilarious.
Nope, in 30 years when we look back on what the NBA truly means to us in our heart of hearts we will see Michael Jordan.
In 2039, LeBron James will menacingly tap his pen on a gold-plated oak desk in a Chinese space station mulling quietly over his next global business decision and cursing the fact that people have seemingly forgotten what jersey number he ended up choosing back in 2003 or that he actually developed a half-decent jump shot.
In 2039, Kobe Bryant will be sailing through the Bermuda triangle in a yacht larger than Rhode Island, couped up below deck with an unkempt beard calculating advanced mathematical formulas*** that might one day put him one step closer to surpassing his idol, obsession and nemesis.
But you and I, my friends, will be hanging out thinking about how sweet it was when the Original 23 tucked his legs up and dunked from the free-throw line, or when he floated just past the out-stretched fingertips of Bryon Russell and sealed the 1998 NBA Finals.
We’ll think about baggy shorts, gold chains, shiny heads and, most importantly, we’ll think about the colors red and black.
What we will tragically forget, however, is the swan song shades of darkish blue, white and bronzey-gold that have come to be synonymous with the modern Washington Wizards.
Myth: Wizards are not real. Fact: Wizards are real, and although we may not like them, the least we must do is acknowledge them. They are real people with real lives****, real stories and real feelings.
For two seasons, Michael Jordan was exactly that, but this represents a window in time that society has chosen to forget.
Looking back, when we recall the initial championship, the glimpse of Number 45 and the consummation of his second three-peat, we’ll quite easily forget the consecutive playoff hunts of ’02 and ’03 when our hero nearly led a team of hohums to the post-season (twice!). We’ll forget the 43 points as a 40-year-old in February of his final year, and that FYL block he unleashed on Ron Mercer and his former Chicago Bulls.
We’ll cheers to Scottie Pippen and high-five for Charles Oakley with little thought of Richard Hamilton or Kwame Brown, and we’ll convince ourselves that Michael Jordan 3.0 never really happened. All of this is reasonable, but it’s not realistic.
To say that Jordan’s time in DC is of any significance in the grand scheme of things would be irresponsible and wrong, but to shun his decision to come back for the “selfish” reasons of reigniting a passion he couldn’t seem to shake is even more so.
We cringed and whispered under our breath when we heard of his plans to return and called him pathetic when we knew he wasn’t listening. We so desperately wanted to protect his legacy for him that we wrote him off with no regard for the ferocious intensity that made us love him in the first place.
By now the humbling legend has adopted the frame of mind that we all have, that Round 3 was a mistake, but here is where we need to pinch ourselves and disagree. At a time when Hall of Fame celebrations will focus solely on his years in a particular jersey, we must not let latter periods of history go unrecorded, even if they lack substantially in comparison to the rest of his career.
After all, what Michael Jordan managed to do with the whole world watching and nobody bothering to help him out was pretty impressive for somebody pushing and (eventually exceeding) 40. And in the same iconic fashion that he exceeded our expectations in the past, he did so again.
In darkish blue, white and bronzey-gold.
Unfortunately, that doesn’t really have the same effect.
|*If you are over 62 and reading this, awesome. Thanks.**I feel blasphemous even writing this.***Hint: It’s not 24 > 23.
****Except for Gilbert Arenas who I’m convinced is a hologram sent from the future by a future-version of David Stern (likely also a hologram) to help convince children that free spirit will never get you as far in corporate America as puppetability.