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MIT’s Interruption

By Eric Rosenblatt

SPORTS COLUMNIST

Few would argue against Michael Jordan being the best basketball player of all time. His records are stunning, he led a team to 6 championships, his great performances are beautiful to watch, he defined clutch. He has the will, the talent, the heart, the cool nickname.

He did not only do a lot for the Bulls but also for basketball, bringing so much attention to it that kids in Europe all had Bulls caps and jerseys in the 90’s. I once heard that “Jordan” was the most recognizable name in the world. True or not, Jordan is a legend. Wizards home games have never been so crowded and Wizards away tickets are the most sought after in the league. Everyone wants to see him, hear him, wear him, be him.

When Jordan came back to basketball a couple years ago to play for the Wizards he made it very clear to everyone that we was coming back to help other players and his team succeed. He would be a teacher and a mentor. At the time my prediction was that Mike would embarrass himself on the court, up against all the young guns of the league like Kobe and AI, but would help his team an enormous amount in preparation for the future.

What I see now, after two years, is the complete opposite. Jordan has been putting up the numbers that still rank him as one of the top players in the game while his team isn’t in the playoffs and perhaps worse off mentally, and certainly publicly, than when he joined.

One of the problems is that no one questions His Airness. Throughout the season Mike was criticizing his teammates openly (while often complimenting himself, something you never used to see). At one point he did it after almost every game of the week. When they won, “everyone was playing hard.” When they lost, “he was playing hard.”

All of his teammates were put on the defensive as the media questioned them and there was little they could do about it. After all, they could never say Jordan was wrong. Instead, they were all made to look like untalented, unmotivated slackers and as a result did even worse on the court.

Imagine what it was like playing with Mike on your team. One of Jordan’s qualms was that no one was ready to take the big shot on his team. But how could they be ready with Jordan next to them? Everyone in the world wanted to see Jordan take the big shot and sink it. The All-Star game was a joke this year for this reason. Every play at the end was drawn to have Mike shoot to win the game. With everyone wanting to see Mike hit the big shots why would a player want to take them? Miss or make, you stole it from the great one.

Jordan’s “23” was recently retired in Miami. Many people are now saying that this should be done in all NBA arenas. To me, these teams are just trying to bring attention to themselves by using Jordan. It would not be honoring Jordan but honoring themselves -- by association with Jordan -- to retire his number. Jordan always being booed in Madison Square Garden is more of an honor than getting his jersey placed on the rafters in Miami.

Let Jordan be remembered for his glory days and as one of the greatest athletes of all time. But also let Jordan understand that what he did to his team was anything but constructive and that he too can learn from others (I have never seen TMac or KG complain about their teams, who are possibly worse and are also in the playoffs). And leave “23” to the Bulls.