Thank you, Michael Jordan. You are the reason I began watching basketball. Being a Chicago Bulls fan in the 1990s was my rite of passage, and watching you play the game is still my greatest basketball memory.
The shadow MJ casts over the United Center is as real as the statue of him that resides out front. However, there may be a chance that the shadow Michael casts over the second city is a little too omnipotent.
MJ is by far the greatest player of all time, and today's players definitely know that. Any player attempting to measure up to MJ's feats on the court is as impossible as three-peating twice in the same decade. Oh wait, MJ did that too.
Michael Jordan was Chicago's gift. However, as Chi-Town continues to get passed up by one big time free agent after another, it appears as if he is also Chicago's curse.
What Jordan did for Chicago has been well over-documented, therefore forgive me if I choose to forgo "waxing poetic" over his stellar 15-year career. This is about the curse of the greatest.
The fact is, today's great players want to forge their own legacy on the court, and that will not happen in Chicago anytime in the near future.
The 2010 free agency class will be the free agency class of a life-time. An ambitious general manager can go out and build a championship team with a few swipes of the pen, a-la the big three in Boston. LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, Amare Stoudemire, and a myriad of perennial All-Stars will all likely opt out their contracts, and therefore they will all be available on the market. And chances are the Bulls will not land any of them.
Not only because the Bulls have one of the worst front-offices in the league (which they do), or because they are always hesitant to pay the big bucks (which they are), or the fact they are lead by a first year coach in Vinny Del Negro that had absolutely zero prior coaching experience, but because good players simply do not want to have to face daily comparisons to the greatest player to ever put on a basketball jersey.
Whether they admit it or not, every player that picks up a ball wants to be "Like Mike," but that does not mean that they want a daily reminder of how they can never reach his pinnacle of dominance.
I realize that even hinting around the idea that anything Jordan did for Chicago has had an adverse effect is nothing short of sacrilege. However, it will be impossible for any one player to win over a Chicago crowd when most of them will still be wearing the first guy's shoes.
As time moves forward and a new generation of hoop stars continue to come into the league that have only seen MJ play on highlight tapes, the legacy of Jordan will slowly fade into more of a distant memory. Until then Bulls fans, memories may be all that's left to hold onto for a while.
Thank Jeremy Johnson of the Daily Vidette for the story.
Posted by Like Mike at 1:48 PM