Saturday, September 12, 2009

Atlas Shrugged

Just before Michael Jordan took the stage to make his Hall of Fame induction speech, I changed my Facebook status to: "Brandon Staton has been waiting his whole life for this speech ... ." And I had been. As a kid, I, like everyone else, idolized this guy. He could do no wrong -- until he took the stage.

Friday's Yahoo! Sports article by Adrian Wojnarowski busted MJ's balls. And if you saw the speech, it's easy to ascertain why. Rather than fill his spot with some quotable mastery, Jordan leaned more toward forgettable misery.

Still, Wojnarowski was harsh in his criticism. Jordan's life, especially his professional life, has followed that of a Greek tragedy. A hero on top of the world; a man with endless earthly possessions and a renowned fame that mortals only daydream about.

But as rare as it is that a talent like his comes along, the mindset necessary to obtain such excellence is a mystery in itself. Very intelligent people spend their professional lives trying to figure out what's different about the mind of a serial killer, a genius, a manic despressive. The brain chemistry of a man like Michael Jordan is one in a billion, and no one can expect to understand with any certainty what makes greatness tick any more than what makes a killer kill, an equation click or the grip on reality slip away.

Very few of us know what it's like to be great. We so admire greatness that we don't want to associate reality with it. We hope that it's great, always.

I saw Michael Jordan play with the Bulls in 1998, when Chicago finished the year with an NBA single-season record of 72-10. It was the only chance I ever had. I was 13, and I remember being disappointed when I left the Georgia Dome because Jordan only scored 34 points. I wanted 50, 60 ... 80.

I wanted greatness.

After that speech, I sat and thought about it for awhile, and I wondered what it must be like to do something better than anyone ever has and it still not be good enough.

I invite you, and Mr. Wojnarowski, to think about that, too.

Michael Jordan earned the right to say whatever he wanted when he took the stand to take his rightful place among the greatest in the game. Still, as a fan, it's fair to say that Jordan's speech was a disappointment.

But don't let that dilute the fact that his career was anything but.

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