Michael Jordan is universally acknowledged as the best basketball
player ever. Some even say he's the best athlete ever. The media gave
major attention to last month's announcement that he'd signed a two-year
contract with the Washington Wizards, and will give up his earnings to
the September 11 disaster relief.
Like an ESPN highlight reel, coverage frequently recounted his glories,
topped by five regular-season MVP trophies, six NBA championships, and
10 scoring titles in 11 full seasons of play.
But it wasn't all star-struck accolades from the media. The coverage of
his second comeback was perhaps a bit more sober, as sports journalists
noted that Jordan, 38, has been retired for three years and has been
struggling during his workouts - breaking two ribs in a scrimmage
earlier this year while also struggling from keen tendonitis and back
Among both supporters and critics of Jordan's return, there was a
consensus that he wouldn't be able to play at his former skill level.
Among those who voiced their belief that Jordan wouldn't be 100% was his
good friend Charles Barkley, who said, "(People) will expect him to play
like Michael Jordan, and he can't do that," (Miami Herald, September
26). Even so, there were a number of comments to the effect that Jordan
at 75%-80% of his past level would still be among the best players in
Journalists also pointed out that the league has changed in the time
Jordan has been gone. The league is now dominated by a new generation of
younger stars such as Shaquille O'Neal, Kobe Bryant, Allen Iverson, and
Vince Carter. NBA officials and broadcasters tried to use this to create
hype for the showdown that the season will feature when Jordan takes on
these new stars.
"The half-dozen or dozen stars out there today have all been measured
against this mythical figure who has been retired. He's not retired
anymore. The world will see just how talented these guys are. This will
bring excitement to the game," said Turner Sports president Mark Lazarus
(Hollywood Reporter, September 26). Both Turner Sports and NBC were said
to already be scrambling to rearrange their schedules so they could
broadcast more Wizards games.
Jordan's return was described as beneficial to a number of parties - the
NBA, the networks, his sponsors, and, most of all, the Wizards
Although the Wizards were usually panned as a bunch of losers who
managed to win just 19 games last year, season ticket sales were soaring
in the wake of Jordan's announcement.
Tickets were also selling quickly in other cities for the Wizards away
Sports Illustrated (October 1) wrote that Jordan's return would be good
for the NBA, despite the fact that the league has been "fighting a PR
battle of the first order, trying to convince skeptical fans that the
young stars of today could carry the league as the Larry-Magic-Michael
Of course, there was debate about whether Jordan might tarnish his
legacy by returning to a team that in all likelihood will be challenged
to reach the playoffs. But there was more support than criticism. Jordan
had given so much to fans around the world, that asking him to stay away
from the game he loves seems selfish. He should do what he enjoys, and
more power to him.
- Evaluation and analysis by CARMA International. Media Watch can be
found at www.carma.com.