Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Michael Jordan Is Not Fitting Through That Door

Comeback... to the buffet
Age isn't fun. Personally, I increase the number of miles and weight that I run and lift every month, watch what I eat, try not to eat at night... and I still dread the onset of the gray hair, hearing loss, creaks and pains and etc. Father Time is coming for us all, and while you can do an awful lot to remain immature and sharp, the biggest thing is knowing when it's time to move on, either from misguided ideas or outdated concepts.

Which leads us, of course, to multiple people asking What It All Means to the iconic basketball player of his generation, Michael Jordan, on his 50th birthday. Like, well, His Airness doesn't age, or can rail against the fading of the light just because he is who he is.

Or, well, was.

I was nearly clear of this when I heard that on drive time radio, Jordan's trainer claimed that the man would average 20 points a game.. if he came back today, at age 50. And that's when the bullspit just overwhelmed me, y'know?

Let's ignore the fact that, at age 39, he averaged 20.0 per game, his career low, on a game that was earthbound and down. Or that the only players who were ever effective at an advanced age in the NBA were lumbering big men who more or less played a static game. Or that Jordan is anywhere near NBA shape after a decade away from the court and several years in the owner's box.

Look, I get it. He was the hero to many, despite being the biggest red-ass of his generation. He was a six-time champion, the most telegenic athlete, possibly ever. He sold an awful lot of shoes, and undewear, and fast food and more. He still does that.

But what we aren't asking, and haven't seemed to ever want to bring up, is why he's so god-awful at being an NBA general manager or owner. His Charlotte Bobcats are borderline unwatchable, have little in the way of intriguing talent, don't sell out their building and haven't been relevant in any way since Larry Brown fled the premises. In the Kwame Brown draft that defined his time in Washington, he took a historically stone-handed high school head case over Tyson Chandler and Pau Gasol. In 2011, in his first draft with the Bobcats, he took tweener Kemba Walker while Klay Thompson, Nikola Vucevic, Iman Shumper and Kenneth Faried are on the board. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist from this year's draft isn't a lock loser (yet), but there's no one in the Association that's trading him for Bradley Beal, Dion Walters or Damian Lillard right now, and Harrison Barnes is also looking all kinds of useful (not to mention, for Charlotte's purposes, local). There hasn't been much here that's worked at all, and it's not like he's managed to make malcontents like Stephen Jackson or Boris Diaw play their best ball when they were in his presence.

And in 2011, he nearly cost us an entire season, such was the size of his beef with the players as soon as he wasn't one.

Here, I'll up the ante even more for the Jordan lovers. Post-playing career, Isiah Thomas cleans his clock. In that Isiah, while an embarrassment on many levels, at least has made a decent draft pick or two in his life, and didn't wreck his non-media legacy for the sake of a few dollars more at the bargaining table.

Post-40 Jordan isn't, of course, the one that anyone wants to remember or memorialize now. For the sake of his playing career, it ends with the push win on the Jazz and Byron Russell, while still in a Bulls uniform, while still a champion. For the sake of his post-playing career, Charlotte is barely in the NBA, and easy to forget. And for the sake of the continued good feelings of graying America, he can come back any time he likes and be just as good as ever.

But that's the sad thing about age, and the inevitable white-washing of history that sentiment, and a media that wants to sniff the Air Jock, creates. Today's shooting guards and small forwards are bigger, stronger, faster, and craftiness and competition will only help so much. As a player, Jordan left just in time (note: his scoring average is still just over 30 a game, and he's not giving that up). As a basketball talent evaluator, he's a historically bad joke. And as an owner, he's one of the worst half dozen in the game. And this game contains Ted Dolan, Donald Sterling, Glen Taylor, Clay Bennett and the Maloof Goofs.

So can we, please. stop celebrating him for getting old?

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