I wonder how many people wake up with “Criticize Michael Jordan” on their “To-Do” list. Obviously, a Pew Research Poll isn’t available, but from what I see online the hate is never-ending. Countless memes are referring to the internet rumor of him investing 20 million dollars into private prison facilities, which to date no documents have surfaced to prove this rumor correct. Mention of the Chamillionaire incident where Jordan allegedly refused the rapper’s request for a picture then stated “I don’t take pics with niggas.” Blame for the deaths which were allegedly caused by his high end basketball shoes. There’s also the ever present argument that he has not “done enough” to address the social ills in the Black community.
Most recently, former NBA all-time scoring champion, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, weighed in on the latter argument in the case of “The People of the Community vs. Michael Jordan”. Abdul-Jabbar feels Jordan chose “Commerce over Conscious” and will “have to live with his choices”, whatever that means. All of this purportedly stems from a comment made by Jordan 25 years ago about “Republicans buy shoes also”.
Okay. What’s presumed by Abdul-Jabbar and everyone is Jordan is supposed to, at the very least, be more vocal about social issues. After all, every great negro athlete championed for a cause, so Jordan must follow suit. He IS supposed to.
In the theoretical wonderland known as “If and coulda..” many things are possible. However, in the real-world a person is free to solely focus energies and efforts towards their personal endeavors. In addition, a person is free to fight the fight in their own way. While Jordan obviously isn’t Paul Robesonesque in regards to speaking out on social issues, the corporate culture within Jordan Brand and the Charlotte Hornets are the most diversely staffed in each of their respective industries. This is rarely highlighted because it clearly doesn’t fall into the Jordan haters spiel. There are many who would rather see him end up of ESPN’s “Broke” documentary then to completely acknowledge the scope of his impact beyond the basketball court even with his silence on prevalent issues.
Lebron James, for one, was greatly impacted by Michael Jordan, not just his basketball legend but also his branding and his business acumen. Would Lebron be the business behemoth his is without Jordan’s template to study from then implement with a few extra touches? The Jordan effect has pushed Lebron to positioning himself to send over 1000 of kids to college. Even Stephon Marbury noticed the scope of building a global brand through his move to China while still in his prime. Marbury recently shot a barb about the cost of Jordans in comparison to his own line, Starbury, but anyone can see through that promotional ploy.
With one tweet, the Starbury brand became relevant because it was branded the anti-Jordan shoe. Again without Jordan’s example business-wise would Marbury be as ambitious and astute to recognize the earnings to be made on an international scale?
In examining Jordan’s career path on the basketball court in comparison to his exploits as a businessman there are a few parallels. First and most glaring is his will, that driven determination that we associate with all his highlights and achievements. It is clear he set out to be the best athlete/businessman ever and considering most athletes go broke 5 years after their careers end, his example should be celebrated. The next parallel would be his insistence of doing things his way. His basketball opponents could never deter him from the reading havoc on the court. He always made it to his sweet spots on the floor then took the shot he wanted to take. It seems Jordan the businessman is doing quite the same; no one is forcing him where he doesn’t want to go.
Not everyone has to speak out and neither does everyone have to go about making a difference in the same manner. Some might use art while others delve into politics as others tweet away in the shadows of those who have made a lucrative careers speaking out on issues affecting African-Americans. If the generation of Abdul-Jabbbar inspired the class of Jordan to transcend past excellence solely in athletic endeavors, then allow Jordan to open the door for the Lebron age where athletes speak out and do something substantial.
In the world of “If’s” and “coulda” we can find room for critique of Abdul-Jabbar’s generation, if only, for establishing the standard of flashy professional athletes which has left the majority today’s athletes flat broke. Technically, we “could” make that argument, but we’d rather not take it there. Let’s just appreciate pioneers for their accomplishments and encourage the following generation to exceed their examples.
That sounds incredibly fair.