Friday, November 13, 2009


If you watched the Miami Heat play the Cleveland Cavaliers last night on TNT, you certainly heard an enthusiastic expression heard and felt around the world. No, I am not talking about that baptism of a dunk that Dwyane Wade put on Anderson Varejao, but I am talking about what LeBron James said. With Michael Jordan in the audience, James said that he would love to change his number from 23 to 6, to give respect to Jordan and to wear the number of Julius Erving, and he said that he would like for everyone to stop wearing 23, in the hopes that the NBA would retire it. Now if you are like me, there are two things wrong with that statement. First of all, Dr. J only wore 6 when he played for the Philadelphia 76ers (he wore 32 with UMass in college and the Virginia Squires and the New York Nets of the ABA), but the most glaring thing is the assumption that Jordan's 23 should be retired league-wide, much like the MLB did with Jackie Robinson's 42.

Jordan is arguably the greatest basketball player of all-time, but the NBA was doing pretty good without him too. Magic Johnson and Larry Bird were deemed saviors to the league and they marketed it well in the 80s, Jordan picked up where they left off and the NBA went into higher heights with him. Also, if you look at it from the social point of view, MJ was not scrutinized during his years in the league like Robinson was.

Jordan did not have to carry his whole race on his back every time he played, much like Robinson did. MJ did not have to sit on a raggedy "coloreds only" bench or even eat outside of a restaurant with Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman while Steve Kerr, Toni Kukoc, and Luc Longley sat on new benches and ate inside. Jordan did not have find a bus to get to another destination while his white teammates rode planes. Michael was not spat on while at the stadium, and did not have to worry about the possibility of someone killing him when he left the stadium or even during a game. MJ was not even called a "nigger" during interviews or press conferences, or even berated by his coach because of his complexion.

Robinson played ten years with the Brooklyn Dodgers from 1947 to 1956 enduring all of this, so that players like Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Roy Campenella, Roberto Clemente, Lou Brock, Bob Gibson, Gary Sheffield, Barry Bonds, Ken Griffey Sr. and Jr., and countless others could fulfill their dreams of playing baseball.

So, Mr. James, until you make another comment like that, read your facts and get them straight. There are many other basketball players who made a FAR greater impact than Jordan in the social realm, and chances are that maybe Mike would not even want to see his number retired too.