by Kent Sterling
Most of us don’t know Jackie Robinson by anything other than reputation and bio-pics, but we are historically aware of the path he created for African American baseball players to join the major leagues and the torrent of negativity he endured as the first of his race to break the color barrier.
Anyone with a passing interest in modern sports knows who Michael Jordan is. He was quite possibly the best basketball player in history, leading the Chicago Bulls to six NBA Championships that might have been eight straight if not for the diversion into baseball caused by the murder of his father.
Without getting into behavioral specifics, one thing is sure, Michael Jordan is no Jackie Robinson. Establishing a parallel between the only player who has been honored by a league wide retirement of his number, and a guy almost as well-known for gambling and egomaniacal rants as his on court exploits would be a hideous elevation of Jordan’s importance to basketball.
Robinson’s image is a sociological touch stone for a moment in history that remains exceptionally important. Jordan has no cultural footprint whatsoever.
Other than being the first global marketing star from sports, from which he still cashes mega-checks, Jordan’s importance on the sports landscape is restricted to his work for the Chicago Bulls. Robinson is a role model for every man and woman aware of his life’s work.
To ordain Michael Jordan as the “Jackie Robinson of basketball” by getting him similarly would do nothing but draw comparisons to baseball vs. basketball and Robinson vs. Jordan in ways that would diminish Jordan and basketball.
Was Jordan a great player? He was the best I ever saw. It should take a hell of a lot more than that to have his number retired by an entire league.
If the NBA wants to pay homage to someone of singular import to its league and game, it should wait until that man comes along.
It sure is not Michael Jordan.