Paths to the Throne

The cognitive dissonance of greatness
Share |

Neil Gaiman once wrote that writers are liars. I respectfully disagree. Writers, like most people, are salesmen. Michael Jordan certainly is. He sold the idea that winning could bring happiness, that work was art and mattered more than life itself. The problem is he bought his own sales pitch. We all did.

We remember Jordan as the most dominant and famous athlete of all time: The Shot, The Shrug, The “Flu” Game. His timing was perfect. The basketball red sea parted as Magic and Bird were moving out of their primes, and Jordan was the perfect face as identity sneakers and commercialism became more ingrained in the sport. It speaks volumes that a transcendent athlete and the best basketball player ever can own Charlotte’s dumpster fire of a team but remain the definition of success.

In Jack McCallum’s book Dream Team, every player is given a nickname. These titles tie the past and the present together, turning lifetimes into character arcs. That he can boil capstones of cultural relevance down to monikers is a testament to his brilliance, and McCallum shows how the members of the Dream Team were viewed by one another, and the world: David Robinson the Christian Soldier, Barkley the Jester, Bird the Legend, Magic the Magic Man, and so on. Unsurprisingly, Michael Jordan is the Chosen One.

He was, of course, not the first player to be seen as the Messiah of basketball. And he definitely wasn’t the last. LeBron may be, though.

***

In the midst of the prize fight masquerading as an Eastern Conference Finals, LeBron James and Paul George shared a small, but significant moment. Small moments like the one between George and James and the rapport James has with one of his chief rivals are where James and Jordan couldn’t be further from each other. James’ sense of camaraderie and sportsmanship with his fellow players has long been considered a weakness.

Jordan, on the other hand, is defined by his obsessive, borderline psychotic need to win. That, after all, was the justification for destroying Drexler, dismissing Isiah, punching Kerr, making a fool of Cartwright, all of it. Jordan is better, the argument goes, because he would set an opponent’s house on fire if it would help him win. That this has destroyed almost every major relationship he ever had is an afterthought.

Which is why Bird and Magic -- his predecessors in every conceivable way -- seem to have found homes for themselves while Jordan grinds his teeth at night. Bird has become a respected front office head, while Magic has become the lovable center of attention he always wanted to be. Both are fitted perfectly for their roles. Bird has been surrounded by basketball while hiding from the spotlight. Magic has yet to be ruined by ESPN, is on TV on a regular basis, and is almost universally beloved. Jordan, on the other hand, has run out of worlds to conquer. He is left with his drive to win, but no one to play against.

Free Darko once described Jordan’s most personal moment as a time when “competition provide[ed] a sanctuary and… a kind of salvation.” This was written as a comparison of Jordan’s loss of his father to Tracy McGrady’s loss of loved ones. Jordan overcame his personal struggles, performing an exorcism, of sorts, with basketball. Jordan’s story fits the narrative: work provided a shelter during times of sorrow.

This wasn’t the case for McGrady, whose play suffered as he dealt with the tragedy that plagued him. Grief found McGrady, as it found Lamar Odom and others, devastating his ability to perform. His inability to compartmentalize was considered a weakness, as if his mourning process could be debated. McGrady dared to feel, to let his pain seep into his work, and so he was cast aside. Many players, like the much maligned Vince Carter, are criticized because their lives aren’t consumed by their work.

When McGrady and Carter retire, though, this makes it more likely that they’ll be able to adjust comfortably. Kobe might not, although he seems to be able to learn from his mistakes and progress as a person in a way that Jordan would probably perceive as weakness. Jordan used basketball as an outlet so when he (for real) retired, he had no other way to deal with his demons; he wasn’t prepared for life without competition. He owns a franchise that might destroy talent more than the Sacramento Kings, he’s surrounded by people that are too afraid to voice actual criticism, and there are only a handful of people in the world he can trust. “The Chosen One” is left a king among ashes.

That’s part of the reason Jordan has been less than enamored with the new Messiah. A few years after everyone was the next Jordan, we finally found one that fits, not as the next Jordan but as the next Next. The transcendent superstar the redefines how we see greatness in a given field.

However, James is wired differently than Jordan ever was. Where Jordan was graceful, LeBron is bullish. He breaks opponents down forcefully, as if he were disassembling a shot gun. He also seems to be a geniunely fun-loving individual, which has to make Jordan apoplectic: one imagines Jordan challenging the guy LeBron tackled to "double or nothing" on who would miss first from halfcourt. Jordan mortgaged everything for success; his soul was the cost of doing business. To think that Michael Jordan will let anyone who walks the path Jordan carved without sacrifices, to Jordan’s eyes at least, stand on equal footing is to deny his nature. Being the greatest is intrinsic to Jordan’s sense of self, and that there’s a player that might get close is unacceptable. With apologies to Bret Hart, Michael Jordan is the best there is, the best there was, and the best there ever will be because if not, what is he?

The question probably never crosses LeBron’s mind as he prepares to challenge Tim Duncan -- arguably Jordan’s immediate successor as the Best In The World with 4 championships in 4 tries and as dominant (and consistently dominant) a resume as any player ever -- in the NBA Finals. These two (essentially) gentle giants mark a sea change in the mentality of pro athletes. Confidently humble and consummate teammates, Duncan and LeBron are actually everything we thought Michael was. They are products of a shift in player development and basic human decency that can be found if you look hard enough at a big picture that requires stars to be higher-quality people on and off the court. They seem to care (or at least appreciate) that there is a life off the court. With a lot of cameras, too.

Michael Jordan has not adapted to this shift, or at least not in any noticeable way. We’ve always known what he is but our view of Jordan’s past goes hand in hand with the reality of who he is. Jordan defined himself by his competition, and he never outgrew his need for it. Some people are 16 forever. In Jordan’s case, there was no need for growth or change since everyone loved him already. His pathological obsession was how he got to where he was. It made him revered. It’s easy for anyone to lose perspective from that height, but Jordan never really had any.

He’s not a punch line (well, except for his outfits,) but he’s not a deity either, while James is already a King. But what did we expect? When winning is all that matters, is it that surprising that there’s no room for anything else? It would be almost impossible for Michael Jeffery Jordan to be anything other than what he is today, while LeBron has the entire world at his fingertips. MJ was never willing to be personable enough to be Magic or Charles,  he was too all encompassing a figure, something submarine-tight brand management made sure of.  We took his "quirks" (read: punches to teammates faces and mid-playoff gambling binges) because we thought it was the only way he got to be His Airness.It allowed us to go against who we knew he was and what we believe we are. We like to root for intrinsically good people, something Jordan might be. The problem is we now realize that he can be a nice guy, like James or Duncan. And that's something Michael most certainly is not.


Share |

Comments

Your contents provide me a lot of creative suggestions that I can seemingly utilize on my web page too.
Inbox blueprint 2.0

I was surfing net and fortunately came across this site and found very interesting stuff here. Its really fun to read. I enjoyed a lot. Thanks for sharing this wonderful information. have a peek at these guys

Thanks for compiling such nicest information in your blogs. Articles are very informative and hope again I’ll find more like that.
Xvideos Brasil

Your site is truly cool and this is an incredible rousing article. Much thanks to you to such an extent. cccam server

Very good written article. It will be supportive to anyone who utilizes it, including me. Keep doing what you are doing. EDDM Printing

Keep doing awesome read few posts on this site and I imagine that your online journal is exceptionally fascinating and has sets of phenomenal data. subscribe free . how to get views on youtube

This is surely a very good blog, thanks a lot for sharing such nice information here.
car insurance quotes

designers hundreds of dollars and wait days for them to make you a logo. The app is also on the cloud so you can access the software while you're on the go from any electronic device.how do solar panels work

designers hundreds of dollars and wait days for them to make you a logo. The app is also on the cloud so you can access the software while you're on the go from any electronic device.Solar Panels

Really nice and interesting post. I was looking for this kind of information and enjoyed reading this one. Keep posting. Thanks for sharing. Clearwater Plastic Surgeon

I see the greatest contents on your blog and I extremely love reading them. money to loan is asanta clarita,

It’s really such nice information to get advantage from.
payday loans stores in st paul mn

Hesami Legal Services founded by Mr. Alireza Hesami who is a licensed Paralegal. He is currently studying law at the University of London International program to have a better understanding of his current legal expertise. paralegal services

It will be gainful to anyone who uses it, including me.השתלת חניכיים

Jordan, on the other hand, has run out of worlds to conquer. He is left with his drive to win, but no one to play against.השתלות שיניים ביום אחד מחירים

stay aware of this intriguing work. It truly regards realize that this point is being secured additionally on this site so cheers for setting aside time to talk about this jaipur to ajmer taxi

Really nice and interesting post. I was looking for this kind of information and enjoyed reading this one. Keep posting. Thanks for sharing. locksmith miramar

Comment: (you maymation and came across your blog. I am impressed by the information that you have on this blog. It shows how well you understand this subject. Bookmarked this page, will come back for mor use HTML tags for style)escorts lebanon

A Society is viewed to be an association of individuals or a body of individuals. Such body with a certain name and goal might be a registered one or unregistered one. Legal character is gotten . supreme garcinia cambogia canada

But he taught us something all the same. If his earliest years is fading, the dedication that earned him his final NBA act will be harder to forget.here I found it

Jordan, on the other hand, has run out of worlds to conquer. He is left with his drive to win, but no one to play against.cccam server

pleasant post, stay aware of this intriguing work. It truly regards realize that this point is being secured additionally on this site so cheers for setting aside time to talk about this! how to gain instagram followers fast ! how to get 1000 likes on instagram

obtaining your records. Of course, there's a cost to taxpayers and to our nation's security resources whenever a request is filed, too.

in wall gun safe

I like this topic.This site has lots of advantage.I found many interesting things from this site. It helps me in many ways.Thanks for posting this again qantas frequent flyer club membership

From the a lot of comments on your articles, I guess I actually is not the only one having all the leisure here! Keep up the favorable work. I have been meaning to create something like this on my website in addition to given me an idea. price table design

You make this information interesting and engaging. You give readers a lot to think about and I appreciate that kind of writing. scholastic book club flyer

Todos Los Modelos Retro Jordan y Nuevos Modelos Originales de Importacion Consiguelos en Markstore Tienda Online Adquiere un cupon de 100 pesos de descuento en tu primera compra essential oils business

The problem is he bought his own sales pitch. We all did.jpkallio.com

Efficiently composed data. It will be gainful to anyone who uses it, including me. Keep doing awesome. Without a doubt i will look at more posts cheap club flyers

I did an interest on the subject and found all persons will agree with your blog.Thanks for offering this beguiling webpage to us. clash royale hack

But he taught us something all the same. If his earliest years is fading, the dedication that earned him his final NBA act will be harder to forget.. monthly boxes for women

Byers said he hopes this new year will bring even better results than previous years, and students will be able to use this professional setup in ways that were not possible before.here I found it

The considerations of the maker was brain blowing, thankful for the offer. Hello, this is truly an excellent article substance, thank you for telling. can you get pregnant right after period

These sorts of webpage sections keeps up the general open energy on the site, and continue framing a little more.Meilleurs Masseurs Electriques Portables 2015 - 2016

third largest, with annual sales of more than $800million, and 750,000+ online bidder members. For more information about Heritage Auctions, and to join and receive access to a complete record of prices realized, with full-color, enlargeable photos of each lot, please visit Unlock iPhone 5

Fairly quickly this incredible website should irrefutably come to be recognized within all of the weblog most people, for the diligent articles or reviews or possibly feedback. best stock to day trade

Delight maintain this approach awesome succeed and additionally Document wait for a great deal more on your stunning blogs. best stocks for day traders

I personally liked going through your solid points on this topic. Many thanks for creating such excellent material. This is excellent... Los Angeles DUI attorney

Your website is for sure worth bookmarking.
carinsurancerates

That’s really amazing and extraordinary blogs & can help those who get issues in searching this type of information.
cheap whole life insurance

You bear through a awesome vacancy. I sanity definitely quarry it moreover personally suggest to my buddys. I am self-possessed they determination be benefited from this scene Los Angeles DUI Defense Lawyer

I want to thank you. Good job! You guys do a great blog, and have some great contents. Keep up the good work...payroll software reviews

I respectfully disagree. Writers, like most people, are salesmen. Michael Jordan certainly is. He sold the idea that winning could bring happiness. garcinia cambogia reviews

I want to thank you. Good job! You guys do a great blog, and have some great contents. Keep up the good work..here I found it

I want to thank you. Good job! You guys do a great blog, and have some great contents. Keep up the good work....here I found it

It’s amazing in support of me to truly have a web site that is valuable meant for my knowledge.club flyers print

Great employment! You all do an incredible blog, and have some extraordinary substance. Keep doing awesome. horror movies

It speaks volumes that a transcendent athlete and the best basketball player ever can own Charlotte’s dumpster fire of a team but remain the definition of success. packers and movers pune

Awesome article! I want people to know just how good this information is in your article. It's interesting, compelling content. Your views are much like my own concerning this subject. scary movies