Tuesday, August 14, 2012
I Don't Want to Be Like Mike
In many ways, Michael Jordan is the face of athletic greatness. Not just in basketball, but the iconic status that he created is duplicated by no one in modern sports. The only other athlete that I can think of who is equally legendary is Babe Ruth.
Jordan not only transformed the way basketball is played, but he influenced pop culture like he was the fifth Beatle.
For everything he accomplished on the 94 feet of hardwood, including six titles, five MVPs, six finals MVPs, and Olympic gold medals, MJ's shortcomings off the court should be what ultimately define 'His Airness.'
Today, Sports Illustrated published an article outlining how Jordan has failed to reach out to his former high school coach who has fallen on hard times. After suffering from a disease, Pop Herring took to abusing alcohol and ultimately ended up behind bars. He is now on the complete opposite end of the fiscal and social spectrum from the man whose career he helped mold. Yet, Jordan has refused to lend a hand.
Is it Jordan's responsibility to help everyone who is struggling in life? No. But as author Thomas Lake points out, Herring could use even the most basic assistance from a man who has things only imaginable in your wildest dreams, dreams Herring had a part in helping come true.
It's well documented that Michael Jordan wasn't an ideal teammate. He was ruthless, demanding, and self absorbed. To be fair, these qualities are probably what made him arguably the greatest competitor of all-time.
But, Jordan has not been able to leave his on-court persona where it should stay, on the court.
His Airness is not a leader. Jordan is a coward and a bully.
More than a decade after capturing his sixth NBA Title on one of the most iconic shots in history, Jordan still has been slow to turn his success into something of substance.
He gives millions of dollars to charities. Financially, he has tremendous influence. But, monetary impact perils in comparison to leading from the front and Jordan leads from nowhere.
Bill Gates and Magic Johnson are both on the front lines of addressing very serious, world-changing causes. It hasn't lessened their success or made them less business-minded.
Showering money at causes isn't taking a stand. His face is all over commercials for Nike, Gatorade, and Hanes (the collar really is awesome), yet won't put his face on issues that truly mean something.
In 2009, David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune quoted a response from Jordan after it was found that Nike, the company that makes his highly popular shoes, was manufacturing their products in sweatshops.
Jordan, the company's most famous spokesperson, responded to the issue with this... "I think that's Nike's decision to do what they can to make sure everything is correctly done. I don't know the complete situation. Why should I? I'm trying to do my job."
Why should you? Because you are one of the biggest beneficiaries of the allegedly inhumane treatment of people.
You know who else failed to take a stand like man? Joe Paterno....
He has been absent from the front lines in speaking out against violence for his shoes and in general. In the city that erected a statue to honor Jordan's playing career, he sits back and watches it turn into a war zone. Actually, worse.
In no way am I suggesting that Jordan is responsible for the killings, but he has a platform to inspire change. Change that is more meaningful than any check His Airness can write.
MJ has the ability to influence multiple generations. He is still idolized and his moves on the basketball court are mimicked by those in the NBA all the way down to pickup games on blacktops across the world.
If MJ were a real man, he would strongly voice his concern over violence for his shoes. Commercials, billboards, public speaking engagements. He does all that to push his products, so why can't he do it to make society better?
He is the most popular athlete on the planet despite not playing in about a decade. He is that iconic. People would listen to his message. Changes could be made. But still, MJ offers practically nothing.
Jordan has made become a brand. Yet, to me, the brand represents being arrogant, selfish, and a bully. MJ has proven his success is all about him and we are all supposed to marvel and praise his rise to the top.
There is no better example of this than his completely off-putting Hall-of-Fame induction speech. Usually a time reserved to thank those who help you find success, Jordan cut down just about everyone along his journey and made it clear that his achievements were to be shared with no one.
Michael Jordan has proven time and time again that he is not concerned with a world outside his own. No matter how much of a positive impact he could have, if it's not on MJ's time, there is no time for it.
Instead, he'd rather smoke cigars, play 36 holes of golf daily, and gamble like his next professional conquest is on the World Series of Poker Tour.
So while Jordan enjoys a life that may not have even been possible without the influence of a man like Pop Herring, Herring and the communities where kids are getting killed over his shoes are trying desperately just to keep his together.
Money isn't the answer. Being present is.
Jordan may be the greatest basketball player of all time. At this point, that's hard to debate. But, it's also hard to debate that when it comes to aspects in life that truly matter he is nothing more than a bench player, because that's where he always sits...away from the action.
I don't want to be like Mike.