Thursday, January 9, 2014

Why No One Will EVER 'Be Like Mike' by Bojo

A funny thing happened to me recently as I was visiting my girlfriend’s family a couple of days before Christmas last year.

I was sitting in the living room talking to her 6 year old little brother, and the subject of what he was getting for the holiday came up, as it often might when you find yourself talking to little children around Christmas. He was prattling through the typical young-child things that one could guess a young child would want for Christmas when something he said didn’t quite fit with the rest of the inane list.

He said that he had asked for Jordans. The shoes. He even knew which edition he wanted, the three’s. I was astounded that a child who is too young to even remember Michael when he was on the Wizards still wanted his iconic shoes all the way in 2013. 

Because Jordan is my favorite athlete of all time for a myriad of reasons, both ones that a six year old would understand (his will to win, etc.) and others (his will to win in Vegas, etc.), I had to press him a  little bit on this.

“Why do you want Jordans? Lebron has a new shoe out, so does like every other NBA player. Why don’t you like them?” I asked.

“Why does Lebron have a shoe?” he said. He cocked his head sharply as he said it like he really couldn’t believe these other players were worthy of a signature shoe line.

That last statement I couldn’t even really believe, ‘Why does Lebron have a shoe?’ What? It was one of those jarring statements that really cut to the core of a situation that only a young, filter-less child could make.  

Now the obvious, and probably correct answer to the question why a child too young to actually witness the greatness of Michael Jordan in real-time would want his shoes, is the fact that Nike has quite vigorously marketed Lebron in a very different, subtly less-appealing way. And try as they might, Adidas and other footwear companies have never had the impact in terms of emotion-raising marketing that Nike has over the decades. Michael and his Jordan brand are quite literally the Holy Grail of sports marketing, and in the end, that is probably the reason why young children even past Michael’s career span want to Be Like Mike.

But personally, as huge Jordan fan, I would like to think it goes a little bit deeper than that. In this admittedly isolated incident of my girlfriend’s younger brother, her step-dad actively shows his son clips of Michael on YouTube.  The little man loves basketball, and he prefers YouTube clips of Jordan to live games now. Call him crazy, but I just call him a straight shooter who knows greatness when he sees it. And my main point here is, in this case at least, he knows Jordan the player, and not just Jordan the brand.

He’s old enough to know a little of the history of the game, and he knows everyone is trying to get to Michael’s mark of six championships. And he’s DEFINITELY too young to know there are some older players with even more championships than that. And just like my opinion of Michael, his won’t change either if someone does get to 6.

As far as he’s concerned, Michael Jordan is the best player to ever lace ‘em up, and he never even saw Michael when he was actually in the league.

And for people like me, someone who was in the supremely impressionable ages of 6-10 right in the second half of the Bulls six-championships-in-seven-years run, Jordan was truly a God. As a kid, I looked up to other athletes as well, guys like Derek Jeter, but in the back of my mind, I always knew that if you put those two guys in the metaphorical ring, Michael would wipe the floor with The Captain. There is something about that deathly focus he had on winning championships that fascinates me, and it is something that I deeply admire.

Although there are TONS of other athletes I would rather play a round of golf with, and despite the fact that I know if I ever met Michael Jordan in person I may very well come away with the feeling that he was a dick, I will never forget the passion he played the game with, and no matter what happens in the future of basketball, when Michael was in his prime, we all witnessed true greatness.

Despite all his flaws, Michael Jordan’s attitude towards his sport has inspired me a lot of the years, and I get a lot of satisfaction out of knowing there is a six year old kid out there watching YouTube clips of him, even if it’s only one.