Although he has been retired for several years now, Michael Jordan is still widely regarded as the greatest basketball player to ever play the game. His influence was felt not only in the way the game was played, but also in how it was perceived around the world. Ultimately, his excellence at his sport was instrumental in catapulting the popularity of basketball and the National Basketball Association all over the world during the eighties and nineties. Beyond all this, Jordan was also a marketing force and was hands-down the most successfully marketed athlete of his generation and, possibly, all time. In 1999, Jordan was named by ESPN as “the greatest athlete of the 20th century.”
Jordan retired from the NBA after 15 seasons, during which he established a number of prestigious records. His 30.12 points per game average is the highest ever in NBA history. He also won six NBA titles with the Chicago Bulls and was the MVP of the NBA Finals every time they claimed the championship. In addition, Jordan has been the NBA’s leading scorer for 10 straight seasons and was the league’s Most Valuable Player five times. He was also selected to the All-NBA First Team 10 times, the All-Defensive First Team nine times aside from leading the NBA in steals in three years. The Associated Press also ranked him as second only to Babe Ruth as top athlete of the century.
Jordan’s wizardry on the basketball court was evident from the very first time he stepped onto an NBA court as a rookie in 1985. He unveiled the full package – a dazzling array of dunks, ferocious defense and the amazing ability to score any time he wanted to. His leaping ability was off the charts and quickly earned him such colorful nicknames as “Air Jordan” and “His Airness.” In one playoffs game against the Boston Celtics in 1986, Jordan scored a record 63 points, which prompted the league’s then-reigning MVP Larry Bird to proclaim that he was “God disguised as Michael Jordan.”
The media has portrayed a number of players as “the next Michael Jordan” upon entering the NBA, including such renowned hoopsters as Grant Hill, Kobe Bryant, Tracy McGrady and Vince Carter, who have all fallen short of their lofty billing. The latest to earn the sobriquet are LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, but they have a long way to go before they can earn the right to be called the next Jordan.