There is arguably no bigger name where I grew up than that of Michael Jeffery Jordan. The legendary basketball player, NBA owner, and product spokesperson is more known, respected, and revered in this part of the Midwest than any other figure to ever hail from or construct a legacy here. Hugely lauded celebrities and public figures such as Mike Ditka, Richard Daley, Kanye West, and Barack Obama pale when contrasted with the blindingly incandescent glare that emanates from Saint Mike. Jordan is arguably the most dominant and well-recognized figure in the history of not just basketball, but all of professional sports, and growing up fifty miles south of where His Airness went to work for fourteen illustrious years (minus two, GO BARONS) makes this more apparent here than possibly anywhere else in the world.
When recalling my years attending public schools in rural Illinois, I can think of fewer people that didn’t own an article of merchandise endorsed by MJ than those that didn’t. The biggest kids in class were always Jordan at recess (for the sake of context, I always found myself as either Luc Longley or Toni Kukoc) and exaggerated stories from uninformed 13 year-olds placed Jordan’s feats anywhere from the mythical to the impossible. I can even remember thirty minute lectures from my fourth grade teacher about the legacy and relevance of Chicago’s favorite son during Social Studies. This was 1998, the peak of the public’s adoration and idolization for the Michael Jordan mythos. What no one paid much attention to, however, was the fact that Michael Jordan is a petty, vindictive, selfish cockhuffer.
The inherent dickishness in The Legend of MJ starts near its very beginning with the oft-referenced and summarily cliched story of his being cut from his sophomore basketball team. As the legend goes, when he was still just an average-sized kid from Wilmington, NC named Mike Jordan, the future demagogue was cut from his basketball team outright by coach Clifton Herring. Mike then went on to allow this slight to fuel his legendary drive to succeed and propel him to become the star we all know. The truth of the matter is that between 50 or so players, there were only 30 spots; 15 on the varsity squad and 15 on the junior varsity team. Jordan wasn’t cut, he was included on and the star of the JV team in his sophomore year. Coach Herring and other assistants of the team have clarified that not only was Jordan never cut, they placed him on the JV team so that he could play rather than languish on the varsity bench as a result of his sophomore status.
The more egregious of Jordan’s slights, is not the invention of “haters” (something that current NBA pariah LeBron James does regularly, yet earns the ire of the basketball public) that Jordan became famous for, but the continual and childish insistence to publicly shame and denounce the rest of this basketball fable’s cast of characters. In is vapid and vile Basketball Hall of Fame induction speech on September 11, 2009, Jordan takes yet another opportunity to deride and slander not only Herring but also the student who was chosen for the team ahead of Jordan; 31 years after the incident, and six since his last NBA game. Jordan’s whiny, childish speech also included the likes of Hall of Fame coach and executive Pat Riley, former Bulls GM Jerry Krause, Bulls chairman Jerry Reinsdorf, and former player Byron Russell…all of whom were in attendance to celebrate Michael’s rightful acquisition of their sport’s highest honor.
To put that in a more compact light, after all of that time and all of the glory and success and adoration that Jordan has been lucky and skilled enough to accomplish and attain, he still felt he was slighted enough to take pot shots for the following reasons. His coach, now homeless in Jordan’s hometown of Wilmington as a result of his late-onset Paranoid Schizophrenia, for “cutting” him when he was 15. His former friend and high school teammate, LeRoy Smith, for being taller and a year older. Former Utah Jazz forward Byron Russell for DARING to suggest that he could defend Michael. At an event specifically to honor his accomplishments…as much as 31 years later.
All of this goes without mentioning his unfaithfulness to his former wife, his gambling habits potentially jeopardizing his team’s success, his steadfast support of Nike during their scandal involving illegal sweat shops, and that fact that he’s egomaniacal enough to think he’s sufficiently important to sport a fucking Hitler mustache.
I’ve got no interest in trying to “Be Like Mike“, because Mike is a fucking DICK.