This past Sunday in Houston, Texas, while the West outlasted the East 143-138, in the NBA All-Star Game, Michael Jordan celebrated his 50th birthday.
At a time when current superstars LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Blake Griffin, Kobe Bryant, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul and Kevin Durant, along with former giants Bill Russell, Jerry West, Elgin Baylor, Oscar Roberston, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Larry Bird and Earvin “Magic” Johnson, are seen as larger than life, Jordan, a six-time NBA champ and 10-time scoring leader, is still regarded as the greatest of all-time.
So brilliant was Jordan, third on the NBA scoring list, that Sports Illustrated devoted nearly half of its content in this week’s issue to the man dubbed “MJ” or “His Airness.”
In Jordan’s case, it’s more than simply what he accomplished on the hardwood that separated him from mere mortals.
Rather, it’s the way in which Jordan, a 6-foot-6, 215-pound shooting guard, went about his business that draws comparisions to other titans like Babe Ruth, Tiger Woods, Pele, Wayne Gretzky, Jim Brown and Muhammad Ali.
The mere mention of their names conjures up vivid images that will last long after these men have faded into the sunset.
It’s true that genius can be missed early on. Take what happened to Jordan, the No. 3 overall selection by the Chicago Bulls in 1984, getting cut from his high school team. Now what was that guy thinking?
Jordan played three seasons at the University of North Carolina under legendary Head Coach Dean Smith, and as a freshman in 1982, calmly sank the game-winning 17-foot jumper with 15 seconds left in the NCAA title game.
Though Georgetown still had time on the clock for center Patrick Ewing, a turnover would seal the Hoyas’ fate.
Jordan, who has two Olympic gold medals (1984 and 1992), and was the Rookie of the Year in 1985, said that shot in the Superdome was a turning point in his hoop career.
We learned there would be other game-clinching shots from the man who averaged 30.1 points during the regular season and 33.4 points in the playoffs.
Jordan and Ewing would meet multiple times in the NBA, and the icon who would be known around the world always finished on top.
This theme would be repeated often and keep other greats from earning a championship ring like Charles Barkley, Karl Malone and John Stockton.
Those who covered Jordan and knew him best would talk and write about his incredible will, talent and desire to succeed.
If you watched Jordan, named 10 times to the All-NBA first-team, during a timeout, he was constantly telling teammates where to go and what to do. This wasn’t done to draw attention to himself, but was a reminder to always be prepared.
Jordan, a 14-time All-Star, six-time NBA Finals Most Valuable Player and five-time league MVP, remains a global figure whose brand brings in millions of dollars to Nike.
In a June 2010 issue of Forbes, the magazine ranked Jordan the 20th most powerful celebrity in the world, and from June 2009 through June 2010, Jordan earned $55 million, and that his brand generated $1 billion in sales for Nike.
That’s incredible given Jordan last stepped onto a basketball court in 2003.
Rick Assad has been a sportswriter for more than two decades. He has a political science degree from UCLA, a journalism degree from CSUN, is a staff writer for diamondboxing.com, and is a columnist for socalboxing.wordpress.com. You may e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.