I’m not a ‘huge’ fan of Michael Jordan, and I definitely don’t hate him. When he was beating the Lakers and Blazers for a ring when I was 11 and 12, I was like, “Oh cool! It’s MJ!” When he was taking down Chuck Barkley, my sentiment was “may the best man win.” When Jordan came back, I rooted for the Sonics and Jazz because I thought the Bulls had won enough, it was time for someone else. Finally, when Jordan was a Wizard, I initially thought his presence would be good, then responded to his departure with shock/surprise, and ultimately, became apathetic toward his presence in DC.
Ok, now that my Jordan fandom disclaimer is out of the way …
Jordan’s HOF speech has been called petty, uninspiring, disparaging, vicious, and strangely bitter by Yahoo!’s Adrian Wojnarowski. He was called a clown, and vicious again, by FanHouse’s Terence Moore. Ken Berger of CBS Sports dubbed Jordan “ruthless,” and called him a “competitive sociopath.” In his Twitter one word description of each HOF entrant’s speech, The Washington Post’s Michael Lee used “cruelty” in reference to Jordan. J.E. Skeets of Yahoo!’s Ball Don’t Lie twittered that MJ’s speech was a bad idea, and akin to “finding out the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were crackheads.” Joshua Lobdell of The Inquisitr called Jordan petty (again), and a disgrace, even going so far as to say, “a large part of Jordan’s legacy has been forgotten” as a result. Tim Varner of 48 Minutes of Hell called the speech “tacky, vitriolic, and unnecessary” … but Tim also recognizes that Jordan’s shots were “footnotes of his mythology,” and calls on us to better recognize the David Robinsons of the world (a more than valid request). And finally, Matt Moore of Hardwood Paroxysm calls Jordan a jackass, but has a great piece highlighting that such actions from Jordan are nothing new … although Moore does claim that, “Ron Artest probably has more going for him than Michael Jordan as far as a complete life goes,” and challenges readers to wrap their brains around that assertion. Not worth trying.
You see, I came across most of these reactions prior to actually seeing Jordan’s speech. My initial response to the reactions was, “Well, that’s Michael … he’s a dick, but a competitive and winning dick.” And the same sentiment seemed to be conveyed by many who knew Jordan with a shrug of the shoulders.
But then, after my viewing on NBATV around 5:30 am on Sunday morning (I know, random time), utterances such as an elongated ‘really?’ and an “are you kidding me?” began to formulate in response to the reactions of the aforementioned.
I can’t exactly call all of Jordan’s detractors wrong for their beliefs, but they are completely missing the point.
I’m not sure if I should be surprised that my take on Jordan’s speech falls very closely to that of Michael Wilbon. Of course, Wilbon’s Chicago connection to Jordan has served as a fair boost to Wilbon’s career (his girlfriend/current wife once wondered who he loved more). If Malcolm Gladwell had a part about Wilbon in Outliers, the fact that Jordan happened to play in Wilbon’s hometown would have been a key factor. So, it should go without saying that I don’t see MJ through the same rose-colored glasses as Wilbon … although I just said it.
Hence, much of what I have to say about Jordan’s speech is duplicative of Wilbon’s column (almost to my chagrin as I usually don’t see eye to eye with him), but I’m going to say it anyway.
What did these packaged romantics expect? … These assumed ceremonial basketball purists on their high horses (damn… feel like I’m being unfairly harsh, but like I said, the opinions of the aforementioned are not wrong — and what I have to say is not targeted toward all whom I’ve linked).
Did people really want a “humbled” Michael Jordan making an out-of-the-box induction speech? Not me.
I don’t want to see the greatest competitor the basketball court has ever known be fake, contrite for doing what he did best on the court … especially when those on-court actions are the reason for his entrance into the Hall of Fame.
Jordan isn’t famous because he could dunk the ball, or drop 50 in a game. About 2.7% of all players who have appeared in the NBA all-time have scored 50 in a game. Michael Jordan ain’t no 2.7%, his percentage is so minuscule that it’s immeasurable.
Jordan is famous because he won. Won to the tune of six championships which easily could have been eight straight, and possibly more. Jordan won because of his competitive nature. And to remain competitive, Jordan wanted motivation, which in his words, he “desperately needed.”
Think about that. The man admits to being ‘desperate’ for reasons to stay motivated, to maintain a competitive edge, a winning level. Don’t chide Jordan because he’s opened a window to his life that was previously unseen (or denied) by most, or blast him for mentioning all the instances along the way which made him a winner. When Jordan asked “what don’t people know about me” in his speech, the answer should have been what their horse blinders of denial didn’t allow them to see.
I’m not here to defend Michael Jordan, and I’m not a Jordanaire apologist. I simply don’t want to be deprived of the ‘whys’ and ‘hows’ that helped create the man we celebrate with a Hall of Fame induction. And I’m glad I wasn’t.