Thanks Covid, the MJ (non) Debate is Back!

by Brandon Halsey  @gettinafterit


It's been twenty years since he stepped on the court. America was about to face a massive dilemma - or so we thought - remember that silly thing called Y2K? I was an uneducated loser in high-school and I remember the panic about it. Talking heads had the public believing all sorts of crazy shit; catastrophic computer failure, bank accounts disappearing and even wackjob doomsday people literally thought the world would end. There was a  collective thought - obviously pre-9/11,  the Y2K thing was would finally do us in. But then we woke up on 01/01/2000 and it was all the same. Well, except for sports, where there was one really big thing missing, Michael Jordan had retired ... officially (I mostly dismiss the Wiazards return), and the world of sports could feel that impact.  

Just the notion of Y2K seems welcoming now, considering the crisis we're currently against. No one died during Y2K. We weren't wearing masks and gloves and scared to go out in public. Millions of people didn't lose their jobs. Small businesses and restaurants weren't caving. The world was pretty damn all-right back then. I can safely say with a high level of certainty, we would gladly make a twenty year trade for those problems, instead of this frightening mess. 

Right now it's certainty unprecedented times. No sports. No movies. No social interaction. No anything. Just a toilet paper frenzy, mass hysteria, never-ending opinions about what can and cannot do and questions about when will we get back to normal. It's the great unknown. It has already, in just two months, reshaped the way we will behave and interact, for years and years and maybe even future generations. Or maybe, when all this comes to pass, that aforementioned sentence will come across as profoundly ignorant because the most likely outcome will be Americans living like we always did beforehand. 

The intention isn't to bore you with more content solely focused on the virus, there is a glass half-full mechanism hidden beneath all the chaos. It's universally agreed that life without sports really sucks. Not going out to eat is a bummer. Tons of small-businesses rest in a state of uncertainty. I could keep going on and on but it's already been overstated to the highest degree, and again, it's only been a few months. It's all just very sad. But during any kind of bad there is always a little good ... you just gotta stay positive and find it. 

The good that I've found is rewatching old NBA games. I remember watching a ton of these games when I was younger. But when you start getting older, and all that you can think about is everything that's current, it doesn't seem reasonable to just spend time rewatching old games. Movies and TV shows are different. I can rewatch any Seinfeld episode a thousand times over. I can rewatch 'Rounders,' 'The Shawshank Redemption' and 'Field Of Dreams' at any point in the movie when they're on cable TV and I am always going to finish the movie. But the idea of rewatching a sporting event that's already been played, when the outcome is already determined has historically seemed strange ... until now. That's the silver lining of the coronavirus. I have been re-introduced into a world of sports that has been not forgotten - because there's a such thing as Pro Basketball (football/etc) Reference and multiple similar website devoted to keeping history alive - but still, the past is kind of forgotten. There's an entire generation of people who didn't see Jordan play in the 90's. There's an entire generation of people who only know and side with Kobe and Lebron because they grew up together. Yet, they wear the Jordan shoes, and they have massive collections. They know of the culture, because they're a consumer and they enjoy the fashionable status the culture provides but they don't recognize the genesis of it. And that's the most infuriating part. It's not frustrating that everyone under the age of 25 doesn't actively seek-out old Jordan footage. It's discouraging that they don't care. It has always been easier to appreciate and promote the 'here and now.' I get it. I really do. 

The past is mostly remembered by way of nostalgia, stat lines, memorabilia and encyclopedia driven website. We live(d) in a world of instant gratification where EPSN's Top 10, First Take and countless other daily shows have a binary narrative of the immediate now. The past has become a place that has only seemed to serve as a reminder. And then there's those of us, my age (37) and older, who have always remembered the past in a more affectionate way. But before this virus it was mostly bedded in romanticism of what we remembered when we were younger. I admit, Jordan has been and will always be the BEST of all-time, because he was the first ... and I was lucky enough to be alive and cognizant during a time when he was at the height of his superpowers. Because he was what I grew up with. Then there was Kobe. And then came LeBron and sprinkled in was Duncan, Shaq, Iverson, Dirk, Nash, Olajuwon and the list goes on. And in twenty years another prodigy could come along and he might be next GOAT. But there will never, never be another MJ. And the LeBron people, the delusional sycophants, always want to make their case. It's the most tired debate there is. Because from their side it's all constructed out of stats (except for stats that matter). Apparently rings don't matter! LeBron is a better person because he didn't cheat on his wife (as far as we know) and he's not a gambler (as far as we know). And lastly there's the forever dependable roster vs. roster shitshow conundrum. All LBJ fans believe with absolute certainty that every Jordan team was stacked - go back and look, after Pippen there is no argument.   

On April 19 ESPN is releasing a Jordan documentary. There's no better time. It has been in the works for twenty years. The raw footage has been sitting in limbo for twenty years. And now, finally, we will see an inside look into MJ's final championship run, "The Last Dance." I encourage you to not only watch the ESPN doc, but take a few minutes to rewatch old Bulls highlights, read books about him and watch some of the old games (Youtube is loaded with content, and there's also this thing called Google). It's fucking unbelievable. He was just so goddamn awesome. Thank you Covid, if not for anything else, but reminding the world how amazing 23 was. The Y2K thing was a sham. It was hype. Jordan was never hype. Jordan created the hype because he was the best to ever do it. Jordan was the coronavirus of the NBA because when he came along he enacted a change never seen before; his brand, image of the NBA via fashion/baldheads/longer shorts, practice/working out, intensity, etc. And when he retired, officially officially - after the Wizards - it was already stamped in stone there would never be another.