Friday, September 11, 2009

Michael Jordan, Today (9/11), and Tomorrow

Today is the day. in a few hours, the greatest player of all time will be inaugurated into the Pro Basketball Hall of Fame.

Michael Jordan...has achieved everything he will ever achieve as a pro basketball player. And no one has ever done it better.

As we've all spent today reflective not only of Michael Jordan's legacy, but also in remembrance of the lives lost eight years ago on this day, a strange and melancholy thought that came to mind, as I thought about these two worlds in collision:

What is the relationship between time and greatness?

Is it inverse, is it direct, or does it vary? Can greatness diminish? Does greatness only swell? Or does time have any relation at all to how monumental a person or event is in history?

Are our lives any less impacted by the great tragedy of 9/11 than they were eight years ago? Yes, our attitudes may have changed. We have returned to a relative sense of peace and stability compared to the emotions of that day. But the reality of what happened, the many lives that were forever changed, the young men that have spent years overseas at war to this day--none of that changes.

The attitude change is attributed to two natural human inclinations: 1) our natural drive towards homeostasis--we were not designed to be emotionally monotone, and 2) today's society is so drowned by information and a world consciousness made possible by 20th-century technology that we are constantly fighting to find our place in history, some assurance that we have had a historically-relevant existence.

(Sidebar: It's the reason that every time you watch SportsCenter there is a new statistic that you would've never imagined was even important, like "Most Time Spent Stranded on 3rd Base", "Most Minutes Played in Toronto by a Non-Raptor", etc.)

So that's why every tragedy that takes place after 9/11 will be compared to 9/11. The lives lost, the effect on the stock market, and the residual damage to our foreign relations will all be marked as "<" or ">" September 11, 2001. It was the greatest tragedy my generation has ever experienced.

But even if/when a greater calamity falls, nothing can change the fact that many sat, as I did, in high school classrooms around this nation, and saw their entire lives flash before their eyes in an instant. No numbers and statistics can supplant the reality of what we and the rest of the nation experienced that Tuesday morning.

Never forget.

(Please see note at end of blog)


great (grt)
adj. great·er, great·est
1. Very large in size.
2. Larger in size than others of the same kind.
3. Large in quantity or number: A great throng awaited us. See Synonyms at large.
4. Extensive in time or distance: a great delay.
5. Remarkable or outstanding in magnitude, degree, or extent: a great crisis.
6. Of outstanding significance or importance: a great work of art.
7. Chief or principal: the great house on the estate.
8. Superior in quality or character; noble: "For he was great, ere fortune made him so" (John Dryden).
9. Powerful; influential: one of the great nations of the West.
10. Eminent; distinguished: a great leader.
11. Grand; aristocratic.
12. Informal Enthusiastic: a great lover of music.
13. Informal Very skillful: great at algebra.
14. Informal Very good; first-rate: We had a great time at the dance.
15. Being one generation removed from the relative specified. Often used in combination: a great-granddaughter.
In my belief, greatness, both in its positive and negative forms, does not fade. The emotions, however, can regress over time.
25 years from his first NBA game, and less than a decade removed from his last dribbles up the court, Michael Jordan's legacy as a great player is well remembered, but his status as the greatest player has already come into question.
Kobe Bryant, for many years seen as the heir apparent, has finally climbed to become the best player in the league, after cementing his first MVP award and Finals trophy sans Shaq. Were he to win one or two more trophies, and climb a bit higher in the record books, many will be ready to give him the "greatest" status already.
Less than a decade removed...
LeBron James, now entering his 7th year in the league (we are getting old), is only 25 but has already established a hall-of-fame career for himself. He has led the league in scoring, won the MVP trophy, and carried his team to the top of the league. If he continues on his current pace and plays for another decade or close, with a few title wins he will likely be considered among-if-not THE greatest player of all many.
Less than a decade removed...
Then there's Dwyane Wade, who has already won a title; Carmelo Anthony, a Jordan-brand athlete who has shown flashes of being absolutely unstoppable and could one day get his game in focus; Kevin Durant, who is 1/2 an inch and 25 pounds from being impossible to guard, and Chris Paul, a small guard who has the will and toughness to compete with players well beyond his experience and size.
Less than a decade removed from seeing Jordan play his last NBA game, there are already whispers of players who could take the reins. What will his legacy be in a full decade? In 20 years? In 30?
Bill "The Sports Guy" Simmons asked an interesting question in one of his recent mailbags: What if Kobe Bryant was a good guy all this time, and we misperceived him because of the Shaq beef? Does that change things?
My first thought, of course, was the way he is perceived compared to Jordan. Would I personally feel that Kobe is closer to catching up with Jordan if I actually saw him as a person rather than a species? Yes, that was a bit harsh, I know.
But then I realized...sure, Kobe could acquire 6 rings, and more MVP's. Sure, Vince Carter might've produced more electrifying dunks in games. Sure, It only took Wade 3 seasons to do what took Michael 7. Sure, LeBron might shatter every scoring, rebound, and assist mark Jordan ever set by the time he's 30. Sure, Kevin Durant could one day average 40 points per game.
But what no one can ever match, and what makes him the greatest player of all time in my eyes, is not his statistics, but his story.
Watch the commercials. Read his quotes. Jordan didn't want to become rich, or famous, or a great dunker, or a leading scorer, or a defensive player of the year, or an MVP, or Finals MVP, or NBA Champion. He wanted it all. He fought for it all. And he achieved every bit of it.
It would be a calamity to see a generation pass and watch Jordan become nothing more than a high-flying dunker who scored a lot of points and won 6 rings. In this highlight-friendly era, that's what he's in danger of becoming. But the beauty of his career is found not in his successes, but in the things we discovered about him in his failures...Being picked after Sam Bowie
  • Losing to the Celtics in his 2nd season
  • Being abused and defeated by the Pistons for three straight years
  • Losing his father
  • Struggling as a minor league baseball player
  • Coming back into basketball, older and further removed from the game
  • Coming back into basketball at age 38 to join a losing Wizards team
...and when he faced the brink of his own demise...
  • The Knicks battles of the mid-90's
  • The '96 season, 72 wins after losing to Orlando the previous year
  • The Sick Game
  • Game 7 against the Pacers, 1998
  • Game 6, The Shot, against the Jazz in '98
  • The "game winner", 2003 all-star game, his last
When you've seen those moments, when you've seen how he fought his way to the top--and stayed there for nearly a decade--it's hard to confine what he accomplished to just numbers and highlights.
Michael Jordan is... a global empire...of shoes.
Michael Jordan is…a shot. THE Shot.
Michael Jordan is… evidence of human flight capability.
Michael Jordan is… a player that cannot be duplicated.
Michael Jordan is… Craig Ehlo’s father
Michael Jordan is… last, a Hall of Famer.
And tomorrow.................................who knows?
*(Please note: in no way am I attempting to tie the legacy of Michael Jordan with the events and destruction of 9/11. This was merely done in tribute and, I hope, in good taste).

Never Forget....9/11/2001

With all the adulation and praise being rained down on the Hall of Fame inductions today, it's important to remember that today is the 8th anniversay of the biggest Terrorist Attack in US History. If you get a chance today, I heavily encourage you to reflect.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

More Michael Jordan memories....

Once again, I was lucky to get to talk with Nick Fairclough(A Fellow member of the Niketalk forum and currently a Macro Financial Engineer with The Cambridge Financial Center (, former Utah Ball Boy about some of his favorite Michael Jordan memories:

Nick: February 13, 2003: The Washington Wizards utilize the Utah Jazz practice facility located at FranklinCovey. The practice seemed light and casual as players went through full court skeleton and shooting drills. Michael Jordan and Patrick Ewing excused themselves from the court and engaged in a friendly game of ping-pong. Due to the laidback nature I thought it appropriate to approach MJ about signing some items I had brought in hope of getting autographed. With a few strokes of a pen…Cha-Ching!!! Michael made my day with additional MJ signatures to add to my collection as well as a posed photograph later that day.

As I left the practice facility I thought to myself “How could/should I possibly show my appreciation to a man who has everything?” I called a friend - Phil Rosenthal, Bell Captain at The Grand America Hotel where the Washington Wizards were staying, and had a case of Bud Light beer delivered to Michael’s room. A gesture that I hoped wouldn’t go unnoticed.

February 14, 2003: I met the Washington Wizards for their morning shoot-around. Michael made eye contact and approached me with an outstretched arm. As we shook hands it was clear who was in charge (my hand could fit in the palm of his giant hand).

“I know what you were trying to do. You got the tall bottles trying to get me drunk!” he said. “What is it with you guys in Utah? Always trying to get me sick or drunk, you remember what happened last time, don’t you?” I can only assume he was referring to the 1997 Game 5 NBA Finals. With the series against the Utah Jazz tied 2-2, Jordan awoke in the middle of the night before Game 5, shaking, sweating and vomiting with the flu. George Koehler, Michael’s long time friend and body-guard describes the event as follows:

“To this day, I don’t think anyone appreciates how seriously ill Michael was in Game 5 on the 1997 Finals against Utah. In those days, Michael never really left his room. So we’d all be in there close by, to pass the time. We all ordered room service, and Michael didn’t order anything. Then at the last minute, he ordered a pizza from a local joint. If I’m not mistaken it was a pepperoni pizza. Nobody ate the pizza except Michael. At two or three o’clock in the morning, Michael wakes up with an upset stomach. So he calls Chip Schaeffer, the trainer, who gives Michael something to settle his stomach. After the antacids, they gave him sleeping pills. Nothing works. He felt like throwing up, but he couldn’t throw up. And he’s getting hot and cold flashes. All of this could have been attributed to the flu, or whatever. Now it’s early in the morning, time to go to practice. So now they give him a laxative. He’s too weak to go to practice, so he skips the shoot-around. Michael tries to sleep, but he can’t sleep. We get on the bus to go to the game at 3 p.m. and he’s just a rag doll. He has no energy. He still hadn’t thrown up. And he still hasn’t slept. Now he’s got antacids, sleeping pills and laxatives in his system. At 5 o’clock, an hour before the game, he can’t stay awake. So he pumps himself full of coffee. He goes out and plays, and we all know what happened. He plays 44 minutes, scores 38 points, brings Chicago back from 16 points down, hits a key three-pointer to put them ahead, and the Bulls win. But at halftime, he’s just drained. If you had seen him, you would have thought there was no way this guy could walk back to the court, much less play. Michael always drank Gatorade to full himself back up with fluids. So one of the locker room kids went to get some Gatorade. Two cans came back, but it’s not Gatorade. It’s Gatorlode, the stuff you are supposed to drink after you are done playing. Michael didn’t even realize what he was drinking. He hasn’t slept in more than 36 hours; he’s get pepperoni pizza, all the medicines, sleeping pills, who knows how many cups of coffee, Gatorlode in his body – anybody else would have been in the hospital. And Michael should have been in the hospital. Nobody else would have been out there playing, much less been able to make a pressure shot and walk off the court. Michael was so dehydrated after the game that he could hardly move. He looked like he was dead. He was barely conscious. I had seen the whole show to that point, and I am still amazed by what he did and with what he had to deal with.That’s just who he is, and it’s hard for people to understand the depth of his will. His whole life is a competition – every aspect of his life. And he’s going to win. It’s just that simple.” (Driven From Within / Michael Jordan” Marl Vancil page.157)

1997 NBA Finals Post Game Comments: “I almost played myself into passing out," Jordan said. "I came in and I was almost dehydrated and it was all just to win a basketball game. I couldn't breathe. My energy level was really low…”

Now, just for the record, I was not trying to get Michael Jordan drunk or sick! Nor was I the individual responsible for giving Michael Gatorlode instead of Gatorade.

Michael thanked me for the beer and we engaged in casual chit-chat before he went onto the court for shoot-around. While the players were on the floor I assisted the Equipment Manager, Jerry Walter, with the set up and organization of the visiting team locker room (hanging uniforms, laying out shoes, placing name plates, etc.) After the team left I took the opportunity to get a few pictures. (How many people do you know who can say they wore MJ’s jersey?)

There you have it. My memory of Michael Jordan, The Greatest Player of All Time, Hall of Fame Inductee September 11, 2009.

Hey Nick, thanks for the info...a few follow up questions:

Did you work the Bull's locker room for Mike's sick game?

I was not officially assigned to the Chicago Bulls locker room during the finals. However, I assisted the Chicago Bulls bench and was on that end of the floor helping the other Utah Jazz Ballboys along with the Chicago Bulls Trainers and Equipment Manager.

Were those of you who were employees of the Jazz aware of what was happening with Michael's health?

Michael’s health was public knowledge due to the media. However, there were several employees (as well as fans) who believed that MJ was faking his illness in hopes of sabotaging the Utah Jazz mentally.

Do you have any specific memories from that game?

I was sitting on the basketball standard as Michael dunked the ball. The reverberation from the dunk was exciting as the standard shook. After MJ's epic performance, Pippen would say, "He's the greatest, and everyone saw why tonight."

Monday, September 07, 2009

Inspirational Images, the Greatest of All Time becomes an Icon.

Click image for full size view

For this week, the choice was a no brainer. Even though this was his 3rd time performing this dunk (twice in this 1988 dunk contest and once in the 1986 contest) this one was a bit different from the rest. First, he dribbled the length of the court and blasted off from inches inside the free throw line. Second he double pumped the ball in the air before dunking it. Huge difference from the fist time he did it laying down the tape as a rookie. For this inspirational image (AND ONLY this inspirational image) no introduction or explanation of who the "he" I am referring to is. If you don't know who that is in the picture or what he is doing, click exit on your internet browser and go read a book.

Michael Jordan enters the hall of fame this week!

In celebration of Michael Jordan entering the Hall of Fame this week, Page 3 is changing out top banner as well as posting a bunch of stuff in review of Mike's career. Celebrate with us as the Greatest Basketball Player who ever lived gets his due Sept. 11.

-Page 3 Staff