Basketball is a game of narratives. Fans, analysts and players alike, all look for stories to tell and leaders to unite each generation. From Bird and Magic to Kobe and LeBron, the mantle is passed from era to era in continuous motion like a well-oiled machine.
But one player has thrown a spanner in the works and disturbed the status quo like no other: Michael Jordan.
MJ dominated 90s basketball with complete disregard for anyone who got in his way. Nobody came close to challenging his crown, because Jordan was always around to rise to an occasion and send pretenders packing.
In the decades since we’ve searched for the next GOAT in quasi-wunderkinds, not ready for stardom and bonafide legends who fall just short.
At the end of the day, everyone wants to be like Mike. But Jordan is the real deal. Read on to learn more about what made Michael Jordan tick and if there is a player out there, capable of knocking him off the pinnacle of basketball greatness.
Michael Jordan holds the crown, now and forever
What is there left to say about Michael Jordan? I can list his numerous accomplishments and game-winning jumpers, which alone cement his position on the throne.
Jordan went six for six in the finals, dismantled the Bad Boy Pistons and the Showtime Lakers, all with modest help from Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman and a team of role players.
Yes, he was lethal, unforgiving, and at times a hell of a bully. But perhaps the most interesting takeaway from Jordan’s legacy is the legend still doesn’t live up to the reality of his playing days.
Jordan the competitor
Early in his playing career, Jordan measured success by results and winning meant everything. He weeded out the weak and put insurmountable pressure on the teammates who clung on. For young Michael, his teammates — aside from maybe Pippen — were extra baggage who he dragged along until the buzzer sounded.
Often his wild competitiveness went too far, resulting in notable down points including the infamous Steve Kerr punchup. His game screamed selfishness and even then he was easily the best in the league.
But to be in direct competition with him? That would leave the best of players quaking in their boots. Even a matured Jordan in his late thirties played with a chip on his shoulder, making up fictitious scenarios keeping him competitive despite being streaks ahead of everyone.
However, it took coach Phil Jackson to finally hone The Bulls into a championship-winning dynasty. With a new triangle system designed to force Jordan to trust his teammates, a refined Bulls hit the league by force and it was a wash from then on.
Only a fool would have favored another team. The Bulls, led by Jordan and organized by Phil Jackson were next to unbeatable. Many sports fans would’ve enjoyed finding the best online casinos at OnlineCasinos.co.uk and wagering on an almost sure bet.
Jordan compared to the modern era
Nineties basketball came with a culture of dogged intensity, rare to see in the modern game. Everyone was after everyone, the rivalries were fierce, the game was more physical and Jordan was all too happy to play an alpha role.
In modern basketball, you just don’t see the same rivalries which spur players on. Aside from the odd Twitter spat, the NBA is a collection of friends.
The famous banana boat lineup of LeBron, Melo, Paul, and Wade is case and point. Seeing then-contemporary greats laugh and joke around on holiday; you just can’t help but imagine what Jordan would do on the same boat.
It’d be a proverbial royal rumble, with MJ throwing Karl Malone overboard, dumping Charles Barkley and then dunking Isaiah Thomas into a rubber dingy.
Over time that same competitive spirit has ironed out, which goes a long way to explaining why Jordan was so concerned with being the best and towering over his peers. And why the same hasn’t been seen since.
We’re talking about a player who conquered all competition, won three straight championships, and had nothing left to prove. So what did he do? Jordan walked away at the peak of his career, taking a year off to play baseball. Only to return and do it all over again.
Will Jordan really be the best forever?
There is little you can take away from Michael Jordan. The championships, the MVPs, the scoring titles, and the sheer ability to drop 50+ points simply because the opposition looked at him the wrong way. All the above make it so nobody may ever be as dominant as Jordan.
Yet, the optimist in us likes to keep the ‘what if’ factor alive. We always think the next big college star will make a play for the number one spot.
Here are a few picks who I predict will continue to challenge and become better than Jordan in some respect of the game:
In many ways, he’s modern-day Michael: Poster boy, leader, and role model. Not to mention a fantastic all-round player. But in many other ways, he’s lacking the razor-sharp edge that makes him Jordan.
LeBron is an all-time great, there is no question to the contrary. And in his long career, no player has come closer to toppling MJ from his lofty perch. But in my mind, he falls short just shy, earning a deserved place on the Mount Rushmore of basketball all the same.
While the debate rages on between LeBron and Kareem for second place, arguments for LeBron as the undisputed GOAT get fainter by the season. Although, it wouldn’t take much to reignite the flame.
LeBron is back with a title challenger after the Lakers traded for Anthony Davies in 2019. And he’s almost certainly going to top the all-time scoring charts before retiring. Though Jordan certainly had the better peak, a case can be made for LeBron’s sustainability at the top. James refuses to show signs of aging. And I’m willing to bet, he’ll still be playing at a superstar level by the time his son reaches the league in 2023.
After recently turning 25, The Greek Freak is a relative baby, who’s already the NBA’s reigning MVP.
Giannis is without question the hottest commodity the league has to offer; any team would be clawing at the chance to build around him given the opportunity.
Unlike Jordan, he entered the draft as a complete unknown but turned out to be a bonafide unicorn. Improving incrementally season after season. As a seven-footer with mind bedding agility and pace, Giannis can play anywhere, even point guard.
He’s also already been through defeat against Toronto in last year’s Eastern Conference Finals. Just as Jordan experienced failure against the Pistons years before. And again like Jordan, his dogged determination is indicative of a strive for excellence.
Giannis is special, offering a breath of fresh air to the league. Antetokounmpo is bringing old school back in the best way possible. He refuses to train with anyone but family or teammates, he doesn’t make friends with the competition.
Even the great Shaquille O’Neal referred to Giannis as superman. And like Shaq, LeBron, Kobe before him – The Greek Freak is up next to challenge Jordan for GOAT status.
Recommended reading: Next Steps for Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks
Michael Jordan is undoubtedly the best basketball player ever. And the names he’s beaten along the way go to show it. The only question remaining is will it stay that way forever?