Game Recognizes Game: Thank You, MJ23

What can you say about a man whose acts have forever rendered the world speechless?

Perhaps the greatest compliment you can pay Michael Jordan derives from comparing his own words to the actions of all those that have so reverently followed in his sneakers.

“My standards have always been mine alone,” MJ once proudly boasted to ESPN in the wake of his second NBA three-peat with his dynasty crew Chicago Bulls. “I have never tried to be like somebody else or live up to the expectations of others. I don’t believe in following.”

Ask yourself what baller hasn’t tried to be like Mike? On one level or another, Kobe, LeBron, A.I., D-Wade, nestled at the heart of what they all do lies a clear and fundamental obsession with Air.

And today, Hoop’s Nation takes pause. Pause to not only reflect on all the glorious memories, but express one lasting salutation to the man who has graced us with a clearly distinguishable measure by which we now define and interpret hardwood greatness.

MJ officially enters the NBA Hall of Fame today in a formality that seems as long in coming as the creation of a national healthcare plan. There’s no denying that on the hardwood his Airness was simply “God disguised as Michael Jordan,” as Larry Bird attested in 1986 after MJ dropped 63 on the Celts in a playoff game at the old, fabled Boston Garden.

And in some ways, Jordan’s impact has been nearly as profound in the arena of pop culture. MJ popularized baggy shorts, made cropped cuts a fad so cool it still persists and, of course, gave us Air Jordans.

Perhaps we should have taken our cue to just how much he would come to change the game back in 1997, when he posed on a Vibe cover alongside Chris Rock, who interviewed him for the feature. He schooled us on the do’s and dont’s of the advertising game: Condoms were viewed as okay–provided someone was willing to make and promote a larger model–but cigars, maybe, not so much.

That would be vintage Jordan, a man simply blessed enough to master feats that still resonate as far outside the box, perform at heights we once could only dream of maybe reaching.

It all comes full circle on this day, when Michael Jordan officially ascends to the throne of basketball royalty. Go ahead Your Airness, and take a bow. No one has ever done more to merit the distinction. –Glenn Minnis