Monday, September 28, 2009

Make No Comparison

Michael Jordan is so closely associated with greatness due to his heroics and accomplishments on the court that people rarely muster the need or desire to criticize him. Since his retirement, Jordan’s career has developed into legend, and he has been placed on that pinnacle of untouchable athletes, who are the greatest at what they did and are viewed as near-perfection in their chosen sport. However, despite all the greatness, there are still negative aspects to MJ’s career. Now, before I go any further, let me make it clear that I am not going to be the one to break the unwritten rule and write an article disparaging Michael Jordan (at least not yet). Rather, this article focuses on a negative aspect that has spawned from Jordan’s great successes, but not one that Michael directly produced himself, but rather one that the media has mainly created in its constant awe and admiration of Michael.

When Michael Jordan was drafted in 1984, he provided the League with a breath of fresh air, and provided fans and opponents alike with an unprecedented package. Never before had such a killer combination of raw talent, athleticism, and motivation been combined into one individual, and the final result was a rap sheet that not only positioned Michael as the greatest basketball player of all time, but as one of the most successful and respected athletes ever as well. Fans were enamored with MJ, as he helped push the mainstream success of the NBA and countless other companies, including, most famously, Nike. However, as Michael’s career wore on, and Bulls’ Championships became almost as automatic as Michael’s step-back, the general public became worried, fearing the eventual inevitable end to Michael’s magnificent career. After Michael, who would dominate the League, and more importantly, our attention? Who would provide the people with such special memories and magical moments on the court as MJ did? And with such unanswered questions looming large over the basketball world, a search began, harmlessly enough, to find the next basketball god who would serve as a replacement to Michael, in both his ability to dominate the League, and our imaginations. Fans had become accustomed to being awe-inspired on a nightly basis, and had become familiar with Michael’s position as an American icon, and they were largely not ready to accept the departure of His Airness, at least not without a suitable heir ready to don the proverbial crown. And it was in this search, unintentional as it was, that a large injustice was committed against the League and some of its premier players.

The trend of anointing an individual as the “next” so-and-so has never made much sense to me in any arena. Spending too much time searching for the “next” something often doesn’t allow you enough time to appreciate the unuqie talents of current individuals, yet you hear it everywhere you go. Grant Hill was going to be the next Mike (So was Penny, Jerry, and Kobe for that matter). Lil’ Wayne is the next Jay-Z, who was the next Biggie, and so on. It seems that no one is safe from being compared to a great predecessor, and in most situations it is not predecessor’s fault. The population just wants the new generation to provide them with the same greatness and excitement that the previous one did, but often this desire comes at the expense of the newer generation. While searching for similarities between individuals, we often miss the uniqueness that makes certain players or musicians so special. No, Grant Hill didn’t pan out to be as great as his Tobacco Road Rival, but does that mean he didn’t have a great career in his own right? Lil’ Wayne will probably not have as many number one albums as his idol, but should that cause us to discard the amazing success that he has had? Of course not, but the endless search for the next great one limits our thinking in that way. Instead of seeing Lil’ Wayne for the amazing talent that he is and the uniqueness that he has brought to the music industry, we limit him with constant comparisons to prior greats: His voice isn’t as captivating as B.I.G.’s, he can’t tell stories like Jay, his rhymes aren’t as intellectual as Nas’, etc. All of these negative comparisons instead of accepting Wayne as his own artist with unique skills. The pressure to live up to such greats has been detrimental to the success of many artists, and the same phenomenon is felt in the basketball world. The pressure to be the next Mike has weighed heavy on many players, and caused many of their career accomplishments to diminish in the eyes of the fan, simply because they were not Michael. This attitude limits the fan, as it does not allow them to enjoy and embrace the current players for who they are, because fans are constantly being reminded of who they’re not.

It is time for such thinking to change. Michael Jordan was an amazing basketball player who had an unparalleled impact of the worlds of sports and sponsorship; there will never be another one. The Notorious B.I.G. was an inspirational rapper who was able to turn his experiences into motivational music that touches millions, even a decade after his death; there will never be another one. So, we will never have another Mike, another BIG, another Ali, is all hope lost? Of course not, because of who we do have: Kobe, LeBron, Jay, Wayne, Money Mayweather, etc. Only once we begin thinking like this can we break the chains of comparison that have tied us to the past, and allow us to begin embracing the “first,” rather than the “next.”


B Gray said...

good stuff kid! gotta opportunity lined up for you if you are interested. NBA moderator for an affiliate site of mine.. get at me on facebook to discuss. Lata.

Post a Comment