Sports figures have attained celebrity status whose cultural currency can greatly inspire and impact the lives of ordinary people. Regarded as the best player to ever play the game of basketball, the life, basketball style and feats of Michael Jordan have served as an inspiration for many different people worldwide. Eleven-time NBA champion coach Phil Jackson, who coached Jordan for all six of his championships, recently told SLAM magazine: "Stop comparing anyone to Jordan...He's in a category of his own" (Mutoni). The mass media further characterizes him as a twentieth century American sports hero, as ESPN called him the "Athlete of the twentieth century" (Andrews xiii). Schools even offer students a class entitled "Michael Jordan: Pop Culture Icon of the Twentieth century" (xiv). Michael Jordan has shown people how to reach towards their goals, and how to accept failure as fundamental to achieving success. The greatest player to ever put on an NBA basketball uniform, he revived both national and global interest in the NBA by revolutionizing the game itself. I would like to play tribute to this sports icon that has greatly impacted me, the sports world, and the African-American community, and American culture at large.
Jordan's personal and professional odysseys paved the way for him to become a pop culture icon. He was born in Brooklyn, NY but moved to North Carolina as a toddler where he grew up and immersed himself in many sports. He played baseball, football, and basketball throughout high school. The myth about Jordan--who merely played junior varsity basketball rather than varsity--getting cut from his high school basketball team as a sophomore has persisted into the present day. Although he did not actually get cut, this narrative is perpetuated and serves as an inspiration for people who face failure and adversity to keep working hard (Cook). Jordan chose to attend the University of North Carolina on a full basketball scholarship where he excelled, leading the team to various NCAA championships. He was then drafted into the NBA in 1984 by the Chicago Bulls and won the Rookie of the Year award in 1985. He played in the NBA for nineteen years and was dubbed the “comeback” six-time NBA champion who won the Finals MVP award all six times. Other accolades Jordan accumulated include winning the League MVP award five times, getting voted onto the All-Star team fourteen times, and winning two Olympic gold medals on arguably the most talented basketball team of all time (Andrews xiii). These accomplishments are virtually unmatched by any other basketball player, which have raised the bar and pushed other young talented basketball players to work harder to strive to become as good as Jordan.
Jordan not only made a huge impact on the basketball court; he also left a mark off of it. He is one of the most marketed sports figures in history (Especially through Nike Advertising) and revolutionized the role of and place for athletes within the commercial arena. He received a groundbreaking endorsement and contract from Nike in which he started his own line of shoes. Nike advertisements featuring him also were released both nationally and internationally. Jordan received a plethora of other endorsements, making him the most marketed African American male sports hero in American history (Andrews xiii). Furthermore, he used his fame and fortune to reach out to his community by starting a Boy and Girls Club in Chicago near the Bulls arena in order to provide a safe place for underprivileged children living in the inner cities to interact and receive guidance and care (Kass). It is quite obvious that Michael Jordan has inspired many people both on an off the court and deserves high praise for his great legacy.
Pundits and avid NBA fans praise Jordan as the best basketball players and highest-paid professional athletes to have ever lived. Often quoted, he infamously once said, "I've missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I've been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed" (Zorn). Jordan has shown so many that you will fail many times before you succeed, and that true failure despite putting for real effort serves as the best teacher and motivator to push you to reach your potential.
Andrews, David L. Michael Jordan, Inc.: Corporate Sport, Media Culture, and Late Modern America. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2001.
Cook, Bob. "The Reality Behind the Myth of the Coach Who Cut Michael Jordan." Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 10 Jan. 2012. http://www.forbes.com/sites/bobcook/2012/01/10/the-reality-behind-the-myth-of-the- coach-who-cut-michael-jordan-in-high-school/.
Kass, John . "West Side Kids To Get Jordan Gift." Chicago Tribune. N.p., 13 Sept. 1994. http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1994-09- 13/news/9409130318_1_girls-club-youth-center-family-center.
Mutoni, Malik. "Phil Jackson: "Stop Comparing Anyone to Michael Jordan"." SLAM magazine. N.p., 14 Mar. 2011.http://www.slamonline.com/online/nba/2011/03/phil-jackson-stop-comparing-anyone-to-michael-jordan/.
Zorn, Eric. "Without Failure, Jordan Would Be False Idol." Chicago Tribune. N.p., 19 May 1997. http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1997-05-19/news/9705190096_1_nike-mere-rumor-driver-s-license.