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

I want people to know just how good this information is in your article. It’s interesting, compelling content. pure garcinia cambogia

The event is sponsored by the Building Industry Association, Southwest Washington Contractor’s Association and the Vancouver Business Journal....EDTA FERTILIZER

Hi, I found your post really helpful. It helped me all the way in completing my assignment, I am also giving a reference link of your blog in my case study. Thanks for posting such informative content. Keep posting. chat with stranger

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, president

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.web design professional

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.
Take Breast Cancer Off the Menu

Bless you designed for your current precious time & get the job done.The Best strategy for binary option trading

cheat top eleven android I just now idea it can be a notion to share incase anybody else seemed to be experiencing difficulty investigating although My business is a bit undecided plainly was allowed to fit bands in addition to deals with with in this article. clash of clans hack download deutsch

le Royaume-Uni (1485-1603), qui peut être considéré comme l’ère la plus glorieuse en Angleterre bonne réputation à l’intérieur, au-delà du monarque est la réputation de la reine Elizabeth I. Nom chinois de Tudor Tudor est traduit comme "Tudor", qui aura un vrai roi.Scooby Snax Incense

amount of water vapor present in a given volume of air to the amount required to reach saturation (condensation into droplets) at the same temperature mobile optin

Your composing is purely awe-inspiring that I desired to read such high quality material...
payday loans

Hanya di KLINIKSTERIL saja anda akan menemukan pelayanan yang profesional dengan didukung oleh tenaga ahli Dokter Kandungan yang berpengalaman lebih dari 13 tahun siap membantu mengatasi permasalahan anda
Offshore Hosting

Rather than implementing a responsive design that adapts to any device and screen size, we are (in this first mobile version) explicitly targeting smartphones,
Adoptieren Sie einen Hund

for articles or blog posts which might be connected with assistance to everyone. Appreciate it.cigars

Text deliver is the number one sms marketing platform out there. It has a 10x higher open rate than email. Check out textdeliverreviews.com for the latest text deliver reviews. We even have text deliver testimonials. Dont miss out on your chance in the biggest opportunity in marketing today. 
text deliver testimonial

Today in Baltimore, 15 of the city’s top 20 employers provide health, education or financial services. But it is also true that the city spends more of its general fund on its police than on its schools.Pet Shipping Service

That expertise. Excellently published document, but only if many blog writers made available identical higher level of information since you, the online world is a significantly better area. You need to thanks.Toronto Prom Limousine

Your composing is purely awe-inspiring that I desired to read such high quality material...
easy online payday loans

Most of the time I don’t make comments on websites, but I'd like to say that this article really forced me to do so. Really nice post! iphone repair san diego

100 followers
Them believes magnificent to read simple things these enlightening plus exceptional reports against your web pages.
how to get youtube views

I feel happiness to read the content that you are posting.
fastest payday loan

Well, I have got the best information from here the site is fully stuffed with the knowledgeable information. term life insurance rates

You fully match our expectation and the selection of our data.payday loan

Hey nice post man! Thanks for incredible info.online payday loans

Mobile makes it really easy to customize the visual appearance of the mobile solution. Basically, all it takes is to change the logo in the header and change the colors used on the site. It is also possible to complete change the appearance and behaviour of everything, but for now we'll focus on how to make small and easy changes to the basic visual design.ways to make extra money

just ask you if you've done it, and they encourage you very much. They also get you to promise to do the habit.abu dhabi escort

women you know on the GC that we're coming their way - we want to grow our Gold Coast family and welcome many more amazing women like you into the community.
http://www.taxsave.com.au/

This kind of clever work and reporting! Keep up the fantastic works guys I’ve included you guys to my own blogroll. Life Insurance Calgary

Nigeria economy

I agree with your blog and i will be back to check it more in the future so please keep up your work.genetica dental

The blog is unique that’s providing the nice material. Please post more interesting articles here. Printing VIP Blog

It has been simply open-handed of people like you to allow publicly exactly what numerous people would've marketed for an electronic book to earn some money on their own, principally now that you could have tried it in the event you considered necessary.
get paid to take surveys

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.The Best strategy for binary option trading

The erosion of urban infrastructure. And the de facto segregation of minority populations in waning urban cores.
Edward Bas

Hello! I just wish to give an enormous thumbs up for the nice info you've got right here on this post. I will probably be coming back to your weblog for more soon.increase wifi range

i spotted you can get a large number of a lot of these web based meaning that opening you together most likely is not as a result complicated. delhi to jaipur cab

wissen will, dem empfehlen wir MIPBlog, @mip auf Twitter, dem MIPTV YouTube Channel und der kostenfreien Mymip app, die u.a. einen Liste der teilnehmenden Firmen zeigt.junk removal Denver

The software most likely conducted for the tier still it’s exceptional. I often dispatch you will the hyperlink so it’s possible to calculate the software in my position you will be your thoughts
advanced warfare season pass free

I decided a few years ago to cut the cord and get rid of cable it has saved me a ton of money and I think I actually watch more content now.
Argan olie fabrikant/producent

Thanks to YouTube, we can now watch the greatness of the past from the safety of the future. I look forward to re-living Barca's greatest moments. After all, scars heal. We can pour out the hatorade and lift a glass to a ridiculously talented team. We no longer have to worry about a rival beating us to a title—it already happened.
Klinik Aborsi

assault and to generate awareness about the issue.iphone 6 cases

This article is actually remarkable one it helps many new users that desire to read always the best stuff. visit page

Your IP address, the ones that disclose where you are and who you are, is completely hidden and cannot be accessed.Press Release

After all, scars heal. We can pour out the hatorade and lift a glass to a ridiculously talented team. We no longer have to worry about a rival beating us to a title—it already happened.

The best trading winning strategy for binary options

The information you posted about louis vuitton is so useful, I am expecting for your next post.... cccam server

Can nicely write on similar topics! Welcome to here you'll find out how it should look. freeware blog

pervasive and too defiant and too strong. Boxing is in trouble, as it often is; it’s a business and a sport. Fighting, as Mandela defined, understood and exemplified it, is a bigger thing, and forever.fishing trips dubai

en tant que conceptrice rédactrice senior. Enfin, Charlotte Terrasse, webdesigner, vient compléter ce trio. Diplômée des arts appliqués, elle a précédemment travaillé chez La surprise et Visual Link.
Låsesmedhvidovre.dk

I am a antique ’Article’ collector and I sometimes read some new articles if I find them interesting. And I found this one pretty fascinating and it should go into my collection..leased line costs

article is really one of the very best in the history of articles. I am a antique ’Article’ collector and I sometimes read some new articles if I find them interesting. And I found this one pretty fascinating and it should go into my collection.Ip booter

EA spent years fine-tuning their creation to their licensor's standards. Their effort paid off, giving them what would become perhaps the all-time best-selling video game franchise in America.
law entrance coaching in Chandigarh