On Michael Jordan’s Hall of Fame Speech
I have a friend who kept an unusual hobby in college. Let’s call her Sarah.
Sarah was attractive, intelligent and had a warm, sunshiny personality that was impossible not to like. A gaggle of guys could be found chancing their arms for her attention at every party, dutifully waddling behind as she moved from room to room.
Sarah liked to page through tabloids and fashion mags in search of the celebrity cellulite which some talented photoshopper missed while prettying-up the stars. It wasn’t a vindictive act. She had no ill will toward Charlize Theron or her ordinary thighs. It was an act of self-affirmation. Sarah liked to remind herself that the pressure to become pin-up pretty was a scam. Regular flesh was fine.
During his Hall of Fame speech, Michael Jordan pinned up posters of himself to the wall. And then he unwittingly took a magic marker and began to diagram the deformities we’ve happily glossed over through the years. It too was an act of self-affirmation.
It was tacky and vitriolic and unnecessary. For many it was a critical discovery—the anagnorisis of basketball’s most enthralling three-part—into the character of Michael Jordan. The high-priest of plastic people, it turns out, passes gas. And sometimes loudly, and in tight quarters.
There is no doubt that Michael Jordan had a different aim. His intention, I suspect, was to mark his will to win as his single most defining characteristic, to lend that sentiment more weight than championships and MVP trophies. Champions and MVPs are, after all, only nearly peerless. They still keep some company. Jordan’s strategy was to relegate all that stuff to the footnotes of his mythology. Who else has that stuff in their footnotes? His myth—the myth that would swallow up all others—would be that when push came to shove, he always shoved a lot effin harder.
So strange that the king of last second heroics would miss so badly on this, his final attempt. No matter how much spin that scripted, staff writer spiel about limits, fears, illusions and various other nonsense puts on the ball, we’ll always hear those first 22 minutes clanking off the rim. We should have heard it coming a long time ago.
But maybe there is a moment of critical discovery in all this. Let’s put a little less elbow grease into the myth-making machinery that demigods are best players. And let’s pay a little more attention the next time a David Robinson comes through.