Growing up I had two huge closets in my room. One was for my clothes and the other was a kind of 'catch-all', mostly filled with basketball shoes, basketballs and other miscellaneous sports equipment. In the 'catch-all' I had one of my favorite posters hanging inside that took up from one corner to the other.
It was a picture of Michael Jordan holding a basketball with his outstretched arms, with the word "Wings" across the top and underneath it had this quote from William Blake:
No bird soars too high, if he soars with his own wings.
In the '80s you were either a Larry Bird or Magic Johnson fan. Even their Converse ads had them back-to-back holding their respective shoe in a mock beginning of a dual. Being from Indiana, I was expected to be a Bird fan, but in fact I opted for Magic. I love his game and until Jordan entered the league in the mid-'80s, he was my guy.
Once Jordan began to make his impact on the league, I rooted for the Lakers, but couldn't miss a game Jordan played in. What Magic could do on the court, Jordan did above the court.
Jordan proved on Monday he still has some ups. At a Bobcats fantasy camp, Jordan was asked if he could still dunk. At 48, and with his main passion seeming to be smoking big fat cigars and playing golf, it's was legit question. Later in the day, Jordan showed that while he's been out of the league since 2003, he can still throw the ball through with relative ease.
Also he showed his uber-competivness hasn't demised either, stating after the dunk that he could beat anyone in the place, including his camp staff. His Airness is still the king of the court and it's good to see that competitive spirit is still alive after what we witnessed in the NBA Finals this year.
I've been a fan of pro basketball for most of my life, but the game it's turning into is something I hardly recognize anymore. Sure Jordan chucked up more than his fare share of shots, but he also won because he know when to shot and when to look for the open guy. Superstars today want the challenge, but most shrink when it comes knocking at their door. Jordan relished those moments.
I dare anyone to name me a game where he disappeared and let his team virtually exclude him from the offense, such as the Heat did with LeBron James. I have no beef with LeBron, but if you're going to proclaim yourself 'The King', you sure as heck better back it up. So far he hasn't.
Any up and coming star will inevitably be compared to Jordan, but the truth is -- there's only one Air Jordan and he reigned supreme in the '80s and '90s. We probably won't see another like him and I hope we never do. He's one of a kind and is still my favorite player to have played the game -- next to Magic of course.
There are certain athletes who should look at the competitive fire Jordan still possesses and instead of working on a jump shot or passing drill this off-season, go in search of some heart, because that's what makes a champion a champion. Until that moment, you can hang any title on a player you like, but that's all they'll remain -- just a player.
Jordan transcended the sport and his passion for the game should be the measuring stick all future players are measured by. Heart and passion is what wins championships and I see a dire lack of both in the NBA right now. Unfortunately the lockout isn't going to help matters much.
On a lighter note, I looked on Amazon and the 'Wings' poster is still available for nine bucks. My birthday's just around the corner and I know one thing that's gonna make the list.