Competitiveness an Inspiration for Everyone
you remember when Michael Jordan retired from professional basketball
the second time? You might recall how perfectly he ended his career
nailing the game-winning jumper over Utah Jazz defender Bryon
Russell in Game 6 of the 1998 NBA Finals to give Jordan and his
Chicago Bulls their sixth championship of the decade. As consummate
as his storybook ending was, lets also remember that he was
only 99.9% sure that he would never play again.
For a guy like Jordan, whose sole existence thrives upon winning
championships and awing crowds, a tenth of a percent chance of returning
is enough to almost make certain that he will step foot on the courts
again. And yes, folks, as of Tuesday, it became official. Bring
out the new Air Jordans and the new number 23 Washington Wizard
jerseys because Jordan, the inventor of the free-throw line slam
dunk and the Wheaties man of all Wheaties men, is returning to play
in the National Basketball Association.
It wasnt too long ago when National Hockey League star Mario
Lemieux, who helped turn the Pittsburgh Penguins around last season
from mediocrity into a contender for the Stanley Cup, made his return
to professional hockey. Nearly six months ago, inspired by Lemieuxs
sheer desire for competition, Jordan followed in his close friends
footsteps and began working himself into shape and on to the court,
much like Lemieux had done on the ice.
The similarities between the two are astonishing among the
obvious, they both have owned shares of their respective teams and
shattered numerous league records while becoming living legends
of their sports. But perhaps the biggest semblance between Jordan
and Lemieux is their unparalleled resoluteness to compete and play
the games they love. Lemieux already proved that age is an obstacle
that can be overcome when he returned to the Penguins last season.
However, at age 38, can Jordan do the same? Will he be able to return
to his old dominant form and become the spokesman for the Viagra
Let it be known that this is no ordinary case of a veteran athlete
returning to his or her beloved sport to give it one more go around.
Not only is Jordan forfeiting all stakes he currently has in the
ownership of the Washington Wizards, he is returning to play under
Head Coach Doug Collins, whom as the teams owner he hired
in April. In addition, Jordan played three seasons for Collins when
he coached the Bulls during the 80s. Jordans new team
will primarily consist of players he drafted, signed and traded
for, so certainly he has put a lot of thought into his return and
is aware of what he is getting into. And above all, the general
timing of his decision to return is almost perfect. Our country
has been devastated by the recent attacks in New York and Washington,
D.C., and however miniscule in importance in relation to these happenings,
Jordans return will be sure to brighten the spirits of at
least a few. Also, Jordan announced that he will donate his entire
salary of one million dollars next season to victims of the attacks
on the United States.
makes the timing of his decision especially interesting is the inclusion
of one major rule change in the NBA for this upcoming season. Unlike
the college level, teams in the NBA havent previously been
allowed to play the zone defense. By the old NBA rules, teams could
only double-team Jordan at certain spots on the court and only in
specific situations of the game. With the inclusion of the zone
defense, though, teams can potentially put two or three players
on Jordan at all times of the game and thats no small
stress for any 38-year-old athlete, no matter how incredible his
or her talents may be. However, assuming that Jordan hasnt
already put this into consideration would be ridiculous, and what
would seem to be a disadvantage for the NBAs fourth career
leading scorer (29277 points) might actually turn out to be a slight
It is no secret amongst Jordan followers that in his early days,
when playing under Collins, he played for a short time at the point-guard
position. And without a doubt, Jordans passing skills evolved
in his last few seasons with the Bulls as more teams decided to
take the risk of doubling him whenever possible, thus forcing his
teammates score, rather than Jordan himself. Considering how many
teams backs Jordan has broken (no need to go into detail of
his game-winning shot over Craig Ehlo of the Cleveland Cavaliers
quite a few years ago), thats hardly a dumb decision. Now,
however, if put at the point-guard position, Jordan could potentially
fill the role for the Wizards ideally. It is highly unlikely that
he has lost any trace of the unbelievable jump shot he developed
during the course of his playing days cmon, the guy
has his own gym and weight facility, it would probably be impossible
to count the amount of jump shots he takes on his own every day.
Jordan became the legend he is in the league today because of his
ability to overcome the competition through exhaustingly hard work
and many adjustments both major and minor. For example, when
he first joined the league in the early 80s, he immediately
made his presence known through his unrivaled ability to slash to
the basket and finish off plays whether it be an amazing
slam dunk or a circus shot from underneath the basket which never
before seemed possible. However, he still lacked a dominant jump
shot in his game. So, as teams began to clog up the middle and force
him to shoot from the outside, Jordan did just that Larry
Bird style. He shot thousands upon thousands of jumpers every day
until what once was a weakness of his became one of his strong suits.
Teams also began to figure out that although he could bury an open
jump shot and dribble and pull up to his left, he couldnt
go to the right and shoot with the slightest bit of accuracy. Needless
to say, Jordan soon perfected this aspect of his game evident
above all in the last shot he took in the NBA, which defeated the
Jazz for his third-straight title.
the addition of these aspects of his game, there is no way Jordan
would have even considered returning to the NBA. Now, in his relative
old age, it is quite possible that the addition of these skills
with a few important ones he already possesses could make him one
of the leagues top scorers and passers this coming season.
Did I say passers? Yes, thats right, passers. In his last
few years with the Bulls, Jordan became a genius at finding the
open man underneath the basket, and if put at the point-guard position,
he has the potential to be deadly. Teams will doubtlessly attempt
to double-team him, but respect from NBA officials and his passing
abilities will either get him or his teammates consistently to the
line. If they lay off him around the top of the arc, Jordan can
bury the 20-foot jumper and the three-pointer. And of course, if
they give him the open lane, even though he might not possess the
same cutting ability he used to, have little doubt that Air Mike
will finish to the basket in a dominating fashion.
During his prime, Jodan was considered one of the top defense players
in the entire league, and he continued to own that distinction for
the most part until his latest retirement. However, his ability
to hand check, that is, his ability to use his hands and forearms
to halt a player from penetrating with the basketball, was always
a major advantage he held over players considering the immense amount
of natural strength he possesses over other players. This coming
season players will once again be allowed to hand check to a certain
extent, much to Jordans liking.
The one main problem Jordan might have at taking up the point-guard
position is being able to actually guard other point-guards himself.
It would be a stretch to say that he will be able to keep up with
the speedy likes of Allen Iverson, Kobe Bryant, Ray Allen and others,
but what is beautiful about it all is that in all likelihood he
wont even have to. Taking the new zone defense rule into consideration,
Jordan could possibly never be forced to face a speedier point-guard
on defense, and could settle for either matching up with a small
forward or playing the top on the two-three zone defense.
Whether Jordan takes up the point-guard, shooting guard or small
forward position remains to be seen. However, it is evident that
his ability to adjust to different situations and challenges has
made him the legend he already is today. Will he be able to conform
to new difficulties and retake his place as the most dominant and
entertaining player in the NBA? Dont doubt it dont
ever doubt it. His wealth of experience and unmatched desire to
compete could be more than enough to give him the capacity to show
the NBA what it has been missing the last few years.
League Slugger Chases History Yet Again
again the chase for the home run crown is on. Barry Bonds has left
his competitors in the dust and is chasing history by himself. For
me that just doesnt make it as fun. Sure, I think he will
break the record and I have been following the chase rather closely,
but it just isnt the same.
When Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa were chasing history, you had someone
to root for. It was the same with Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris.
You essentially had three choices then. One, you wanted to see the
record stand, or you wanted one or the other of the two guys to
break it. In this last race, I wanted to see Sammy break it or to
see the record stand. Its not that I dont like McGwire,
hes an all right guy, but I knew he had the better chance
to break it and I have always been partial to the underdog.
That is why this year isnt the same. I like Bonds. I know
that is a daring statement because he is a very unlikable baseball
player, but for all the reasons he is hated, I like him. Bonds is
a guy who has pictures of himself on his wristbands, his own PR
guy, not to mention his own masseuse and big screen TV in the clubhouse
that only he can see. He also refuses to talk to the press. I mean,
we are all evil, and we all misquote everything, but most people
are willing to put up with it.
Actually, I like the fact that he refuses to talk to the media.
It adds an aura of mystery to the guy, though most people just assume
he is an asshole. He has never talked to the media, but that can
be a good thing. Look at the case of Maris.
I watched 61* last night. Its a baseball movie about Maris
and Mantle and their chase to break Babe Ruths record of 60
home runs in a season. To me, that chase is the ultimate home run
chase. You had teammates battling each other in the Yankee Stadium,
which is known as none other than the House that Ruth Built.
To start the movie, both Maris, a newcomer to the team, and Mantle,
a seasoned veteran, are loved by the Yankee fans. Maris, a small
town boy, isnt big on talking to the press, not because he
dislikes them, but because he is just a quiet person. Mantle is,
of course, loved by the press because he always tells them what
they want to know.
Mantle starts the season on fire and immediately talk begins as
to whether or not this could be the year the record falls. Maris
on the other hand, starts the season in a slump, hitting only .200
with a handful of home runs. Maris, who felt winning a game was
more important than hitting home runs, is called into the coachs
office and told not to worry about his average, just to hit homeruns.
This isnt a review of the movie, but to know what happened
is important. Maris quickly becomes hated by the fans in real life.
This is due in large part to the media. Maris, after being misquoted
dozens of times, decides to quit talking to the newspaper altogether.
This drove the media crazy, in turn driving the fans insane. All
of a sudden a home run-hitting machine was booed in his own ballpark.
Meanwhile, Mantle, everyones favorite, is cheered like a king
every time he steps into the box.
Mantle and Maris battled it out, staying ahead of Ruths pace
the whole season, but a ruling by the commissioner put the race
in jeopardy. It stated that if the record was to be broken it had
to be done in 154 games because that is how long the season was
when Ruth set the record. If the record was broken in any game after
that, an asterisk would be put beside the number denoting a lengthened
season. 1961, the year that Mantle and Maris chased the record,
was the first year of the lengthened 162 game season.
Mantle, playing injured, ended his run at 54 home runs, when he
was finally hospitalized with a hip injury. Maris, in the 154th
game of the season, needed three home runs to break the record.
He hit one that game, ending his run at 58. Maris, obviously, did
go on to break the record hitting 61 home runs that season, a record
that stood 35 years until McGwire broke it and went on to hit 70.
In 1991, the commissioner of baseball ruled that there only be one
home run record, thus getting rid of the asterisk beside Maris
number. Maris had died six years before, never knowing that he was
the true home run king.
Bonds, as I said before, is going to break McGwires record,
which is an amazing feat, but for me the excitement just isnt
there. Maybe if Luis Gonzalez or Sosa has kept up the pace Bonds
set, then it would have been more interesting. To me, this race
is just another shot at history only five years after it was set.
Bonds to this date has 67 home runs and is projected to hit 71 by
the end of the year. That is, if pitchers throw to him. The most
exciting part of the chase is the fact that the Giants are in a
pennant race and pitchers are throwing around Bonds. If he breaks
it, it will be an impressive feat because of that factor more than
I will be watching closely to see if he hits 71, but its not