In these few years I’ve done the Black History series, I’ve covered 5 historic athletes or teams. There was Jackie Robinson in 2015. A couple of trailblazers were featured in 2018 with the Texas Western men’s basketball team and fellow Ohio State alum, Jesse Owens. Last year, it was Hammerin’ Hank. A couple of weeks ago, it was Barry Bonds. Yesterday was the 59th birthday of perhaps the most revered and influential Black athlete of all time. With the NBA All-Star Game and the official presentation of the NBA 75th Anniversary Team this coming Sunday evening, now is a good time to feature this athlete. That brings me to this week’s Black History subject in the Flashback Friday series: Michael Jordan.
How I first came across this Black History subject? I can’t exactly pinpoint when I was introduced to Michael Jordan but my earliest recollections take me back to the 1991 NBA Finals between the Bulls and Lakers. If you remember, that’s when I also discovered the NBA on NBC.
What it meant to me then? I didn’t really get into basketball until 1992…and I was a Seattle SuperSonics fan. But I would see and hear so much about Michael Jordan. He was always regarded as a fantastic player. Sports television shows always featured highlights of his tongue-waggin’ dunks and his signature fadeaway jumper. There were the Gatorade and McDonald’s commercials. Of course, the sneakers were top-notch though I never personally owned a pair. He was also the darling of the Barcelona Olympics in 1992. Although I didn’t care much for his Bulls teams in the 90s, I respected his game. He was big-time and he always showed up…especially in that all-important period between mid-April and mid-June. Being a Birmingham native, I got a chance to see him on the baseball diamond as well when he played for the Birmingham Barons. I attended 2 games and while he wasn’t impressive at the plate, he did flash speed in right field and on the basepaths. Of course, everybody was happy when he returned to the NBA…even though that meant he would dispatch my Sonics in the 1996 NBA Finals. He retired as the greatest player in basketball history…a title I believe he still holds.
What it means to me now? Today, he is the owner of the Charlotte Hornets. He’s not as good in the executive/boardroom role as he was on the court. Still, I have a tremendous amount of respect for his accomplishments and what he means to Blacks all around the world. I personally think that his #23 should be retired throughout the NBA as much of the league’s popularity is, in large part, because of his spectacular career. For me personally, I always use him as the Player DNA for my Create-a-Player in the NBA 2K games when I play the MyGM and MyLeague modes. I know there will be debate as to whether or not LeBron James is better but for me, it’s clear…Jordan accomplished more in a shorter time. That has to count for something.