COMMENTARY | The Chicago Bulls have finally moved past the Michael Jordan era. It may have taken a while, but the team, with head coach Tom Thibodeau and superstar Derrick Rose, has managed to create a separate identity and step out of the immense shadow cast by the greatness of Jordan. Still, no one who was around to witness the game of basketball during this time period can think of the Bulls without thinking of MJ. He was, and is, incomparable. LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant are all phenomenal NBA athletes but not even they have reached the heights of success and fame that Jordan attained. Even my grandmother would sit down in front of the television to watch him play.
Jordan was not known for being the nicest player in the NBA. In fact, he was actually frequently reported to be rather arrogant and aloof. But he was just so amazing that no one cared. You wanted to be "Like Mike" because he was everything you wished you could be. On the court he was poetry in motion, unflawed in every way imaginable with not a weakness in his game. He was captivating. The perceived shortcomings of his character, somehow, never overshadowed this or made him less likeable. Jordan forced not just Bulls fans but basketball fans to fall in love with his game. Once that happened he could do no wrong in their eyes.
Now turning 50 years of age, the G.O.A.T. reveals more of the man that he is in an incredibly introspective interview with Wright Thompson for ESPN. There are less-than-flattering recollections of Jordan spitting on food so that no one else could eat it; tales of him mercilessly teasing Bulls general manager Jerry Krause for being overweight, and other stories that paint MJ as not being a very nice guy. Still, acquiring this knowledge will probably not cause anyone to dislike him. When you speak of him, the conversation will remain centered around his conquests as an athlete.
That is what signifies true greatness in sports. When what you have done as an athlete, for your team and for your sport transcend all that you have ever been, or failed to be, as a man. Not to insinuate that being an admirable person away from the game isn't important. But when you can not be, and are still beloved by millions, respected by your predecessors and imitated by your incumbents, you are greatness indeed.
Jordan's competitive spirit, drive and desire to win are unmatched. That is what endeared him to fans. They watched him play a basketball game, well, with the flu. Witnessed him hurry to the locker room in an unsuccessful attempt to hide the overflow of tears upon winning a championship after the passing of his father. Fans saw MJ give his heart and soul to the game of basketball every single time he took the court. This is why he is perfect, even when he's not.
Such sacrifice does not come without consequence, however. Now approaching a milestone birthday, in the interview it becomes apparent that Jordan is still as maniacally competitive as ever. It's just that now he does not have much of an outlet for expression. In those few that he does engage, attempting to build successful Charlotte Bobcats franchise, along with random bets and puzzle games, winning remains the only thing that matters. Jordan even mentions playing in the NBA at 50. Although this is unlikely to happen and probably a terrible idea, who among us would not pay to see him try?
Timeless, Michael Jordan is-- happy birthday to the absolute best to ever do it.Acamea Deadwiler is a Chicago-area native with several years experience covering the NBA, including the Chicago Bulls, for Examiner.com. She has also been featured in Bounce magazine, SLAM Online, and various other publications. Follow Acamea on Twitter @AcameaLD.
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