Thank You, Michael Jordan
What we have here is the Q and A session from Michael Jordan’s Hall of Fame inception speech, all 21 minutes of it. What follows are some of my middling thoughts about the joy he gave me watching him play.
Growing up in England (Air Force brat), I didn’t really grow up with a “home team” to speak of. My parents are from Kentucky, and I went to school at the University of Kentucky, but as I grew into my teenage years, after making my way back to the United States, watching Jordan play is what helped make me such a passionate sports fan. Instead of a team, I had Michael Jordan.
One of the first full games I remember watching of his was a Chicago Bulls/New York Knicks game — you know, the one that produced this blocked shot (I believe it was this one):
Chew on that, Patrick.
From then on, my growing interest quickly solidified to full-on worship. I bought the shoes, the jerseys, the McDonald’s meals, you name it. Hell, I even considered myself a Chicago Bulls fan. Granted, the only reason I was rooting for the Bulls was Jordan; but that didn’t stop me from cheering like one of Chicago’s forgotten sons whenever he played.
Truth be told, there are almost too many memories to correctly recall. The 1988-89 season quickly comes to mind, if, for nothing else, All Star weekend. That’s the year Jordan and Dominique Wilkins went at it in the dunk contest.
It was also the year Jordan won his first regular season MVP.
It was all gravy and admiration for Michael in the individual sense, and being such a fan of the player, that was something I could enjoy. But then, he started winning championships, and I soon realized that biggest lesson Jordan was teaching:
All the talent in the world doesn’t mean a damn thing if you don’t win.
And so, he won. And won. And won. And won. And then he won two more times, just to make sure we were getting his message; one that said, not only am I the best individual player in the
league world, I can lead my team to championship victories as well. That quality right there, Jordan’s will to win, is what sets him apart from the Wilt Chamberlains of the world. While Wilt’s individual talent might have been greater than Jordan’s, Wilt rarely beat Bill Russell.
That’s a moniker Jordan will never have to wear.
Just ask the Detroit Pistons. Or the New York Knicks. Or Karl Malone and John Stockton. Hell, you can ask Charles Barkley, Clyde Drexler and Magic Johnson as well. They too know the truth about Michael Jordan — he’s simply the greatest winner of the modern era. Yes, Tiger is unnervingly brilliant, but does anyone else have the feeling he’s only on the stage Michael set for him? Now, that doesn’t mean Jordan is the reason Tiger wins. Instead, it means I don’t think Tiger would be afforded the same kind of popularity if Jordan didn’t break down those barriers first.
I will say this about Michael Jordan, I’m just sorry I never got to use him — from his Chicago Bulls days — in fantasy basketball. I can’t imagine the amount of trade requests you’d entertain if Jordan was playing in today’s age of electronic leagues.
With that, allow me to say, “Thank you, Michael. Thank you for years and years of incredible displays of basketball. Thank you for showing me it takes more than just pretty dunks to be considered great. Thank you for the two gold medals. Thank you for that playoff dunk over Patrick Ewing. Thank you for that running lay up you hit against Phoenix in Game Four. Thank you for Game 2 of the Lakers/Bulls Finals game. I could go on, but I probably shouldn’t; however, before I end, most of all, I’d like to thank you for being so damned fun to watch. Without your contributions, I don’t think I’d be the sports fan I am today.”