Why Michael Jordan‘s legacy remains unmatched
The NBA, throughout its history, has witnessed many great talents. From Bill Russell and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to Kobe Bryant and LeBron James, many phenomenal players have blessed the NBA and the game of Basketball with immense competence. But somewhere between this prodigious talents came a man by the name of Michael Jordan, who changed the fate of the NBA forever and made it illustrious not only in the United States but throughout the globe.
One of the grandiose reasons Jordan indisputably holds the ‘G.O.A.T.’ title is because of him winning six finals in a row. And even though those finals are the highlights of his career, there’s more to Jordan’s legacy than winning six titles. To put things in perspective, here are the top reasons why Jordan’s legacy remains unrivaled.
Drafted by the Chicago Bulls as 3rd overall, in 1984, Jordan had one of the best rookie seasons ever, averaging 28.2 PTS and 2.4 STL per game leading the Bulls into the playoffs. And in-spite of losing to the Bucks in the first round of the playoffs that season, Jordan’s performance was stimulating enough to put the league on notice that a star had entered the game. Needless to say, Jordan’s terrific performances throughout the season won him the NBA R.O.T.Y. (Rookie Of The Year) award.
2. The ‘Jordan Rules’
Imagine being so good at something that the opposition literally has to come up with a strategy named after you to stop your dominance against them. In the late 80’s and the early 90’s, the NBA, among other things, was known for the infamous rivalry between the ‘Bad Boys’ Pistons and Jordan’s Chicago Bulls. The Pistons, in order to limit Jordan’s effectiveness on offense, employed a defensive strategy, which they termed as the ‘Jordan Rules’.
In an interview with Sports Illustrated, then Detroit Pistons coach Chuck Daly described the Jordan Rules as,
“ If Michael was at the point, we forced him left and doubled him. If he was on the left wing, we went immediately to a double team from the top. If he was on the right wing, we went to a slow double team. He could hurt you equally from either wing—hell, he could hurt you from the hot-dog stand—but we just wanted to vary the look. And if he was on the box, we doubled with a big guy.
The other rule was, any time he went by you, you had to nail him. If he was coming off a screen, nail him. We didn’t want to be dirty—I know some people thought we were—but we had to make contact and be very physical. “
When doing an ESPN 30 for 30, then Pistons guard Joe Dumars said,
” It goes, the DaVinci Code, the recipe to Coca-Cola, then the Jordan Rules “
3. First Three-peat
Although Jordan’s second year was injury prone (playing only 18 games that season) he came back the following year healthier than ever putting up insane numbers year after year. But his terrific performances throughout the season and during the playoffs were not enough as the Bulls kept getting swept by the Detroit Pistons in the playoffs every year until 1991, when they managed to sweep the Pistons 4-0 and advanced towards the franchise’s first ever NBA Finals where led by Jordan’s magnificent figures (31.2 PTS 11.4 AST & 2.8 STL) , the Bulls finished off Magic Johnson and the Lakers in 5 games to win their first ever Championship title as Jordan lifted his First Finals MVP.
The Bulls dominance continued in the 1991-92 season, where once again led by Jordan’s MVP caliber performance, the team entered the Finals (with franchise’s 67-15 record setting season) to face the Portland Trail Blazers. With Jordan’s 35 point game, the Bulls went on to win Game 1 and eventually defeated the Trail Blazers in a six game series. Jordan went on to win his second finals MVP as he finished the series averaging 35.8 PPG, while shooting 53 percent from the floor.
The Bulls won their third consecutive championship in 1993 against Charles Barkley and the Phoenix Suns, whom they defeated in a six game series under the leadership of Jordan who averaged 41.0 PPG, as he became the first player in NBA history to win three straight Finals MVP awards.
Shortly after winning his 3rd championship, Jordan announced his retirement citing a loss of desire to play the game. He went on to play baseball for 2 years before announcing his comeback on March 18, 1995, through a two-word press release: “I’M BACK.”
4. Second Three-peat
With Jordan back in the team and the addition of rebound specialist Dennis Rodman in the 1995-96 season, the Bulls looked stronger than ever and it clearly reflected in their performance as the team finished the season with the then best regular season record in NBA history : 72-10. The Bulls then went on to reach the finals, (losing only one playoffs game along the way) where they defeated the Seattle Supersonics 4-2 to win their fourth NBA Finals. While Jordan won his fourth Finals MVP with averages of 30 PPG & 4 APG, surpassing Magic Johnson’s 3 Finals MVP record. And if this accolades were not enough, Jordan also became only the 2nd NBA player to win regular season MVP, All-Star MVP and Finals MVP in a season.
In the 1996-97 season, the bulls advanced to the Finals for a 5th time, where they faced Karl Malone and the Utah Jazz. This series against the Jazz featured two of the more memorable clutch moments of Jordan’s career. One came with a buzzer beating jump shot in Game 1 of the Finals. While in Game 5, Jordan, inspite of suffering from what is known as the “Flu Game”, scored 38 points including a game deciding 3- pointer with 25 seconds remaining. The bulls won 90-88 and went on to win the series in six games as Jordan lifted his 5th Finals MVP award.
Jordan and the Bulls compiled for a 62-20 record in the 1997-98 season. Jordan led the league in scoring with 28.7 PPG, securing his fifth regular-season MVP award, plus honors for All-NBA First Team, First Defensive Team and the All-Star Game MVP. The Bulls, after beating the Indiana Pacers in a 7 game series, headed towards the Finals for sixth time, where they faced their old rivals, the ‘Utah Jazz’. In Game 6 of the Finals, Jordan had, what one might call, one of the most clutch moments in NBA Finals history as Jordan hit two shots within a minute, including one jump shot with about 5 seconds left on the shot-clock. Jordan won the franchise their sixth NBA championship and second three-peat. Averaging 33.5 PPG, Jordan was voted the Finals MVP for the sixth time in his career, a record which till date hasn’t been broken. The 1998 Finals holds the highest television rating of any Finals series in history. Game 6 also holds the highest television rating of any game in NBA history.
5. The ‘Dream Team’
Jordan’s achievements in basketball weren’t limited to NBA as he is one of the only three American men’s basketball players to win Olympic gold medals as amateurs and professionals. His first Gold medal came as a college player in the 1984 summer Olympics, where he led the team in scoring with 17.1 PPG.
In the 1992 summer Olympics, Jordan was part of a super team which included players like Magic Johnson and Larry Bird and was dubbed as the “Dream Team”. Inspite of playing limited minutes, Jordan finished second on the team in scoring averaging 14.9 PPG and became the only player to start all 8 games in the Olympics.
6. The Big Screen
Jordan is a man of many talents, and it clearly showed when the five time MVP became the first basketball player to star in a leading role in a motion picture. The classic movie ‘Space Jam’ released in 1996 turned out to be a blockbuster as the the movie grossed $230 million dollar worldwide on a budget of $80 million. Even after 22 years of its release, the movie still remains highest grossing basketball film of all time.
The movie was filmed during a unique period in Jordan’s timeline ; he had just returned from his dalliance with baseball and was about to launch his second championship three-peat. And as thrilled as Jordan was to be a part of the movie, he had his priorities straightened out as he demanded the Warner Bros. to build him a state of the art facility called the ‘Jordan Dome’ which included a full weight room, locker rooms, showers, a living room and, of course, a basketball court where he trained rigorously almost any and every chance he got. Talk about dedication at its finest.
7. Air Jordan
Throughout his career, Jordan have influenced a generation of young players by his athletic leaping ability highlighted in his back to back Slam Dunk championships in the year 1987 and 1988. Jordan’s legacy has been immensely boosted by his ‘Air Jordan’ image which originally started as a sneakers produced by Nike exclusively for Jordan and eventually led to a brand of basketball footwear and athletic clothing which till date is used extensively by players as well as the fans.
The ‘Air Jordan’ brand remains a cash cow for it’s owner Nike and its namesake Michael Jordan. Total Jordan U.S retail shoe sale hit $3 billion dollars last year, which brought the billionaire an additional $100 million dollars. If this doesn’t speaks for Jordan’s legacy I don’t know what would.
8. Presidential Medal of Freedom
On November 22, 2016, shortly before honoring Jordan with his Medal of Freedom, President Obama said in his speech,