My Apology to Michael Jordan


        On May 12, 1988, The Chicago Bulls went on the road to defeat the Detroit Pistons 105-95. Following the game, my parents drove the approximate one-hour back to Toledo as I reflected upon how much difficulty my childhood favorite Detroit Pistons were going to have defeating the Bulls in the playoff series. I continued to replay all of the various ways Michael Jordan was able to score via dunks, lay-ups, and jump shots over the vaunted Pistons’ defense; I went on to have an extreme sense of disdain for the budding superstar as a result.

            Of course, the Pistons would eventually dispose of the Bulls, but it definitely gave my cause for concern as the divisional rivals kept meeting in confrontational regular season/playoff games following the 1988-1989 season. In addition, the National Basketball Association quickly instituted the “Flagrant Foul” as a means to aid Jordan by punishing the Pistons (also New York Knicks) from the clothesline tactics of Rick Mahorn and Bill Laimbeer as the 1990s commenced.

            Although I was a young man at the time, I had a keen sense that the NBA was positioning Jordan as being the centerpiece of the brand as Earvin “Magic” Johnson and Larry Bird’s careers were about to wane. I could see the immediate impact of this transition do to the vast numbers of Bulls’ apparel I saw worn around my hometown. A decade earlier, a Chicago Bulls’ player, such as Reggie Theus, could not even give away the franchise’s souvenir items if he wanted.

            As expected, Michael Jordan was able to lead the Chicago Bulls to a championship in 1991, and the march towards the Hall of Fame was in motion. A year later, I began my studies at Oral Roberts University and watched Jordan hoist championship trophies like it was mandated by birth. My irate disposition regarding Jordan began to leak out in my dorm room commentary to the point where some of my wingmates probably thought I was imitating a Richard Pryor/George Carlin comedy album from the 1970s. I guess my resident advisor and chaplain were semi-concerned about my attitude and said, “You ought not to say those things about Michael Jordan”. I began to dislike any associations with Chicago/North Carolina such as the following: Bears, Cubs, White Sox, Blackhawks, Tar Heels, Chicago pizza, politicians, etc.

            Sadly, my feelings about Jordan did not change until July 23, 1993. The senseless murder of Mr. James R. Jordan, Sr., his father, had a profound impact on me because of my relationship with my own father. I could not imagine the pain Jordan went through because I could not comprehend what my thoughts would have been if someone took either of my parents away from me. So, I did not believe it was unexpected for Jordan to enter into this first retirement as a result.

            Prior to Michael Jordan’s return to the NBA in 1995, I began to reflect on all of his qualities that I do admire. Jordan was able to use motivation and determination as a powerful combination to get an advantage over his opponents. Now, some of his detractors were quick to address his less than sanctified habits during his career, but I would argue that it was not necessarily Mr. Jordan’s responsibility to become the Patron Saint of Professional Basketball. At the time, his primary objective was to be there for his family, friends, team, and his charitable endeavors.

            When Michael Jordan returned to the NBA following his second retirement, I was really hoping he could perform well enough to lead the lowly Washington Wizards (still Bullets to me) into a playoff appearance for old time’s sake. Unfortunately, Jordan was unable to carry the deadweight of teammate Kwame Brown through his nearly 40-year-old legs for a playoff run in his final season as a professional. I thought Jordan’s teammates should have manned-up enough to send him a more appropriate send-off after such an illustrious career, but he was unable to communicate to them the type of intensity that was necessary to become winners in their profession.

            In the end, I guess Michael Jordan was somehow able to get even with me for my bad feelings towards him in years past. When I first met the woman who became my wife, the first question I inquired of her was which state she called home. Her immediate answer with pride was, “I’m from North Carolina!” Next, I looked up towards the ceiling and thought, “God really does have a sense of humor.”            

June 15, 2010