Why Jordan Has No Joy

I actually never liked Michael Jordan. I know what you’ll say, “But he’s the greatest player to ever play the game!” And you’d be right, there’s no denying it. He ruled the air, claimed the victory, and his induction into the Hall of Fame, on September 11th , proved his greatness. But his induction speech revealed in clear colors just what kind of man he was and is: a petty and unhappy one.

If you watched Jordan’s induction speech you’ll have noticed one common theme: revenge. He took shots at everyone he could think of, even his children. He assured listeners of how spectacular he was, how important he was, how he alone won the games and built the Bulls Dynasty (not the organization: “The Organization didn’t play with the flu in Utah”).

What’s peculiar of course is that he had no reason to do this. He had already clearly shown how important to the game and the dynasty he was. He already had his revenge. His revenge came in the form of national championships and MVPs. So why the speech? I can only guess, but I think it’s a good guess: Michael Jordan’s fame and stardome has still left him empty.

After all, this is the end. The montage of Jordan clips celebrating his greatest plays only revealed that it was all over for the legend. Now in his fifties he has become an absetnee GM for Charlotte. But there will be no more buzzer beaters for him, no more champagne showers, no more championship rings, no more ESPN highlights, and no more basketball. And after it is all said and done my guess is that he’s not satisfied.

I am reminded of basketball legend Pistol Pete Maravich. Maravich was a legend too and after his game came to an end he had only one thing to say, “I wasted my life!” Now here was a man who had won awards, championships, and been, himself, inducted into the Hall of Fame. So why did he say that? Because he had, late in life, come to know Jesus and saw, in reflection, not a life lived for Jesus on and off the court, but a man who played a game. Jordan is coming to the same conclusion, only he doesn’t have the Son of God to fill the void left by this game.

Well, it’s only a guess. Who knows what’s going on with Jordan, maybe he’s just a mean middle-aged man. But there’s no denying that if basketball is your life, when the game ends you have nothing left. All our idols, all our gods, will leave us, friends, only Jesus will be true. Maybe Michael will see that yet.

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  • Carissa

    David Brooks has an interesting reflection on Michael Jordan, Kanye West, and Joe Wilson versus the celebrities of the WW II era. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/15/opinion/15brooks.html?em

    I’m not sure if nostalgia (a la Brooks) is the most helpful response, though.

  • Steven Schueren

    Brilliantly said, David! I think that MJ fits much of the profile of the man described in Ecclesiastes who had to discover the hard way that life without God-in-Christ at the center is not a life worth living (no matter how much fame & fortune may try to convince him otherwise).

  • Myles

    I disagree with “this is the end”. He is a business man and is still obviously on the forefront of the American public. Plus he works with Nike on the Jordan Brand helps them design shoes for athletes. If anything basketball opened MORE doors for him.