Reports that the Charlotte Bobcats owner is leading the charge against the NBA Players Union have convinced me that since nailing this game-winning, career-ending and sixth NBA title-securing shot, Michael Jordan has been on a decade-long mission to dismantle his legacy beyond repair. Yes, the man we once called “Air” is actively running his name and fame into the ground, sabotaging his own success, weaving a tragic-comic tale of his post-Chicago Bulls career that, at this rate, will soon equal the triumph of his playing days.
Project Demolition officially kicked off on June 27, 2001 with the selection of Kwame Brown who, a decade later and still short of 30, is already widely considered the worst number one draft pick in the history of the NBA. It was a decisive first move, one that, in retrospect, set a bold course for the next ten years.
Pretty soon it wasn’t enough that he’d taken a front office job with a team that hadn’t sniffed the playoffs in four years and tasted playoff victory in a decade and a half. No. The next phase of the project required a major act of self sabotage. Hence the comeback. Even as a lifelong Washington fan, watching him don a Wizard uniform was painful. Imagine Denzel Washington took a role in a sitcom on the WB. Imagine George Clooney starred in a Skinamax flick. Imagine President Obama’s next job was president of University of Phoenix. These are all bad thoughts that should never become reality. And thankfully they won’t. But Jordan was a man of a mission.
After failing to lead the Wizards to the post season in his two seasons, Jordan’s knees gave out for good and he called it quits, though not before delivering a string of notably putrid performances, including a memorable 2 point outing against the Lakers and a 6 pointer against the Pacers. The performances resulted in a stock downgrade that sank him from hands-down all-time greatest to merely greatest guard or greatest of his generation. It was at this time that MJ also began sporting the awful string of patchy mustaches. Despite his best efforts at metaphoric self-immolation, though, Wizards attendance skyrocketed.
Unfortunately after sullying his on-court career with the Wizards stint (one punctuated by rabid criticism of his teammates and a tragic inability to pass the mantle let alone the ball), MJ was publicly booted out of the Washington organization by the late Abe Polin, a man known by Wizards fans as both hazardously loyal and generous (he alone is responsible for overpaying Gilbert Arenas by $100,000,000). To his dismay, the sympathy points he gained by the public humiliation nearly offset the nightmarish two seasons.
Luckily, Jordan was able to hitch his wagon to the Charlotte Bobcats and pick up where he’d left off with Kwame Brown. As President of Basketball Operation his first order of business was selecting Adam Morrison with the number of 3 pick in the 2006 draft. Like his predecessor, Morrison is widely considered a top five worst draft pick of the last ten years.
(Lest I sound petty and mean spirited I wish only to point out that this wasn’t just a bad pick because he turned out badly. It was a bad pick because anyone who watched any college basketball knew Adam Morrison peaked in college.)
However, since Jordan could only take partial credit for Morrison’s bustage (Morrison showed flashes of promise, including a30 point game in his rookie season before hurting his knee, losing his starting job and eventually his uniform), MJ set about finding new ground to break in his quest. He found it in an unlikely place: his annual summer basketball camp for rich guys. In this 2008 video (one I believe to have been leaked by Jordan himself in an effort to hasten his demise), CEO John Rogers beats the ex-GOAT in a one-on-one match with a series of crafty moves. See for yourself.
A year later a Jordan delivered the most entertaining Hall of Fame Speech of all time. It was called controversial. It was called petty. It was called tacky. I call it brilliant. Simply brilliant. What better stage to stomp on one’s legacy?
Never one to rest on his accomplishments, MJ proceeded to appear in a series of Hanes commercials the purpose of which I’m nearly certain wasn’t to promote underwear but his new mustache:
Six months later Jordan became the owner of the Charlotte Bobcats. His new position gave him unfettered access to court side seats. He smartly used the opportunity to make various bold fashion forward statements — particularly his single-handed revival of the mock turtleneck, leather pants and weathered jeans looks — that have been surprisingly effective in furthering his mission to destroy every remnant of his once untouchable iconography.
Read Part II here