I don’t care who you are, sports nut or not, EVERYBODY has 2 cents for the ‘Michael Jordan is the greatest player to ever play the game’ statement. Go ahead, experiment. Invite all of your friends to a nice dinner somewhere, order a few a drinks and drop ‘the statement’. Sit back and watch a passion eruption like none other, like, ‘the statement’ was the last tick the time bomb needed before it exploded! Personally, I am not immune to the newly discovered passion either, I’m right there in the conversation, moving to the edge of my seat, raising my voice and repeating, “What are you talking about?!?” just like the rest of them. I’m the guy that cringes when hearing ‘the statement’ and not surprisingly I’m usually surrounded by people that agree with it. I’ve heard a wide a variety of reasons to support ‘the statement’, here’s some from my recent exchange:
1. “Dude, who else has their own brand like MJ? He’s got his own logo, and he’s made a crap load of money with it.”
2. “Jump on YouTube and pull up his highlight reel, it’s friggin’ amazing!”
3. “If Jordan were playing today he could crush the competition.”
4. “He’s got 6 championship rings!”
First let me get this out of the way. Yes, I’m a Los Angeles Lakers fan, BUT, I never try to squeeze Kobe (or anyone else) into the conversation, why? Because people usually try to get physical if I even start to mention his name and secondly, I feel that mentioning another player would rocket the conversation into another stratosphere and then all parties would be even more glossy-eyed with frustration and wonderment.
Let me first speak on the responses in support of ‘the statement’ and then I’ll move into the issues I’m having.
1. Yes, Michael Jordan has made millions of dollars with his off the court sponsorships and business ventures. I believe the divorce settlement he agreed to, almost $170 million, should shed a little light on how deep my man’s pockets are right? But how does the fact that he’s made millions through sponsorships and athletic wear make him ‘the greatest ever’ on the court? Off the top of my head, I’ve heard that Magic Johnson and Dikembe Mutombo have done incredible things off the court as well. Does their success off the court have anything to do with their greatness on the court?
2. There’s a grip of highlight reels out there on YouTube for Michael Jordan. There’s also highlight reels for Blake Griffin, Lebron James, Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, Allen Iverson, Shaq O’Neil, Dr. J., Derek Rose and a slew of other players that aren’t household names. Moral of the story, ALL highlight reels are pretty awesome.
3. I’m sure you’ve heard of Dwight Howard. Even casual basketball watchers are familiar with him. He’s been rumored as the next Shaq, the next dominant big guy to own the paint. If you still don’t know who Dwight Howard is, let’s just say if Zeus took a piece of cinderblock and carved out a son in his image, I’m pretty sure he would be Dwight Howard. I mean look at him…
…6’10”, 240 lb. raging monster beast child in the paint. What’s the point? Now look at this…
Meet Andrew Bynum. 7’0″ 285 lb YOUNGER raging monster beast child. Again, what’s the point? In all honesty did Michael Jordan EVER have to deal with dudes like this in the paint? Think hard. Okay, maybe Karl Malone, but besides him, did Michael ever have to dunk on a raging monster beast children like Dwight Howard or Andrew Bynum?
Side-note for this argument: If the “I think the physique of a NBA player has drastically changed since the time Michael Jordan was playing, therefore, placing the ’91-98 Michael Jordan into the 2011 NBA is confusing” argument (AKA “The league has changed since the MJ”) isn’t working for you, does the fact that there have been many rule changes since MJ’s playing years hold any weight?
4. Six championship rings in between ’91-’99; wins during a particular stretch of time. I don’t get this point because it takes less than four seconds (I just timed it) to google “nba championship rings” to find out that there 9 people that have 7 or more championship rings chillin’ in their safe somewhere. Knowing this fact, wouldn’t you have to then explain why MJ’s six were harder to get than Bill Russel’s eleven*? (Surprisingly, the conversation never gets to this step, which is understandable, because that would seriously be an amazing explanation.)
So here we are. I’ve heard all of the usual responses and you now understand how someone can be confused at the end of the discussion. The confusion boils down to basic points of concern: Is ‘the statement’ a generalization? Is MJ really best ever, no matter who comes along? Is it just the individual stats? Are we supposed to disregard teammates and coaches? What if we take Lebron James (purely for example purposes) and place him in the ’84-’99 NBA, what happens then?
The way I see it, Michael Jordan played in the National Basketball Association and during his tenure, he was the best player, the most entertaining player on the floor, period. But why do I feel that once these words have made it through some people’s nervous systems and up to their brain I must protect my throat from a karate chop?
Do people have a hard time with there possibly being someone ‘better’ and more entertaining? Are we not on the same page because ‘the statement’ is just like saying the best music only comes out of the 70’s? Is this discussion ultimately a subjective one?
If you can explain that Michael Jordan is the best ever to play the game, ever, let me know, in all sincerity, I really want see that argument. I also want to see Christopher Nolan explain Inception, using shapes, not words. Yeah, I have one of those kinds of brains. Seriously, I would love to see the complete ‘Michael Jordan IS the best player to ever play the game of basketball’ argument. I would then promptly ask you to help me figure out who the greatest boxer of all time is.
*Please see comment by DH below.