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Wednesday, February 17th, 2010 at 2:52 pm  |  24 responses

Michael & Me

Happy birthday, Mike.

by Sandy Dover

This might sound a little corny, but the picture of MJ crying with his dad after winning his first title is a real emotional photograph for me.

Imagine working on your dream, your passion, for 20 years or more, working day and night to prove that you are the best at what you do. You fail, you succeed, you fail, you succeed, and when you finally get the opportunity to bring it at a time when you have been tested so long, and you win the opportunity to see the fruits of your labor, this is a depiction of that scenario and a true embodiment of what life is about to me. In my eyes, I believe there is fact that shows that Michael is the greatest player to ever play the game of basketball, and quite possibly the greatest athlete in the history of professional sports worlMichael Jordandwide. His dad, James Jordan, who was his life-long inspiration, died two years after seeing his son’s dream into fruition.

Michael wasn’t my favorite player when I started following basketball at age 10. My boy was Jim Jackson, famously (to me) of the Dallas Mavericks. A high-scoring, multi-tool perimeter player who in some ways was very similar to another one of my favorite players, Scottie Pippen (though Jimmy was not the defender that Scottie was, or as uniquely strange in athleticism as Scottie had been). Jimmy wasn’t what many people thought of when favorite ball players are considered, but he was talented and stood out in a way that seemed a little Jordan-esque, at least coming out of Ohio State and Toledo Macomber High.

For me, being a young fan of the game and then growing to be in my current mid-20s, Mike was and is someone who transcends the game of basketball itself. I didn’t have to think about his being the best, he was the best, and still is the best. Even though our old friend from SLAM, Scoop Jackson, called him “God” (which is something that as a spiritual guy, as a Christ-believer, on the surface I consider it blasphemous, but I understand in the reasoning that really it’s the God that’s in MJ doing those incredible things), I comprehend what Scoop meant. His Airness was the closest to seeing God play on the hardwood. By standards of the NBA, Michael was average. He was around the average in height (measuring at 6-6 ¾—he was really about 6-8 in shoes), going between 195 and 230 in his weight, and with above-average arm measurements, superficially, he wasn’t supposed to be what he became, and that makes him all the greater.

In truth, this isn’t hero worship (at least it’s not meant to be). My calling Jordan the greatest athlete of all-time doesn’t mean I think he’s the greatest human being forever, and for those who expect that athletes should be held in the height of truly great people who actually make social differences and improvements in our world should probably re-evaluate their standards. This is about recognizing a man, who at 47, is still suMichael Jordanch a cultural icon, a man whose significance is so great in the fabric of the game to the extent that this very magazine and corresponding website would probably cease to exist—he’s the reason the NBA has abounded to its worldwide stature.

It’s amazing to know that MJ is celebrating his 25 years of relevance in the League through his shoes. I used to wear L.A. Gears, adidas, Reeboks, Keds and Nike Air Force basketball shoes, but when I first was able to get a pair of Air Jordan XIIs, I knew then I loved Jordan the player because everything else associated with him seemed all the greater. I bought Rayovac batteries instead Duracell because of him; I started getting the first release of his signature shoes every November as my primary basketball shoes for the year (some of my friends were able to get multiple colors in the same models—I wasn’t as blessed or as spoiled, I had to get down and throw down some ducats for my ****, son!); I already loved Mickey D’s Chicken McNuggets and I got hip to Gatorade at Nike camp in ’97. The point is as much as I appreciated his gifts and talent, I grew to have a significant respect for him as a player and his contributions to the game I now love.

So, here’s a happy birthday well-wish to the greatest, and a personal thank you for letting me witness one of the best executions of perseverance and dedication to talent and pure passion in recorded history.

Sandy Dover is a novelist/writer, artist and fitness enthusiast, as well as an unrepentant Prince fan (for real). You can find Sandy frequently here at SLAMonline, as well as at Facebook, Associated Content and Twitter.

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  • http://www.shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com Eboy

    I don’t know if I’ve ever heard someone say their first player they fell in love with was Jimmy Jackson. That’s pretty crazy, Sandy. To Mike, keep being you, no one else can.

  • Fat Lever

    Nice write up. I tie a lot of my best childhood memories to mimicking and practicing his moves on the court(even though I couldn’t come close to dunking) and watching Bulls games on NBC. For another good take on MJ, I recommend Bill Simmons’ Book of Basketball and his section on MJ and why he’s the greatest basketball player ever. Some very good stories in there.

  • amir

    who is sandy dover?

  • amir

    who is sandy dover?

  • mamadou n’diaye

    Sandy Dover is the person who wrote the next article about the 6 trades that need to happen, ie. the most embarrassingly bad article Slam has ever posted.

  • amir

    sorry for the double post, thanks for clearing that up..

  • Earl

    Thanks for the thrills, Michael. :)

  • http://www.slamonline.com/online/category/blogs/san-dova-speak-easy/ San Dova

    Mamadou N’diaye! What happened to you after you sucked with the Toronto Raptors and Denver Nuggets!?
    …Posting on my ish! Ooooooooooooooh yeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah! ;)

  • rob

    Jimmy Jackson????
    LMAO!!!!

  • rob

    @amir “Sandy Dover is a novelist/writer, artist and fitness enthusiast, as well as an unrepentant Prince fan (for real). You can find Sandy frequently here at SLAMonline”. It’s right there man! By the way, she must be the most naive writer in the world.

  • rob

    by the way Sandy, MJ is 6’5 and 6’6.5 in shoes. Not that it really matters…

  • Captain Spaulding

    Happy B-day Mr. Air Jordan

  • Captain Spaulding

    Happy B-day Mr. Air Jordan

  • http://hoopistani.blogspot.com The Hoopistani

    the first basketball player i fell in love with was the glove.

  • http://www.inbox.lv smiles

    referring to god, he truly created a feeling he had a link with something beyond our powers, starting with his childhood days when he outgrew everyone in his family by 6-7 inches, not to mention all the unbelievable things he did on the court, he was amazing
    younger readers most probably haven’t seen mike doin it in the 80′s when he was at the top of his athleticism so I recommend everyone watch some old movies, just to understand and compare
    happy b-day mike

  • http://www.inbox.lv smiles

    me too started to fall in love with basketball during the mj era, it was 1995, I was 8 and it was Latvia and first basketball games were televised and they were from the past week but anyways we never missed them and when the bulls played we even recorded some, it was a great time to be introduced to basketball

  • http://alimartin07@yahoo.com Ali

    Been a die hard Laker since The Great Western Forum days, but if I drifted to any other player more than Magic is was Mike! Got “Come Fly With Me” on VHS in 1989, and that was all she wrote. Single handledly changed the way players looked at the sport and the association from the 80′s, and carried it on his back till his retirement! Happy B-Day Mike….

  • Jerry Shen

    Yeah no way MJ was 6’8 in shoes. He looks considerably shorter than Pippen (who was 6’7). I say MJ was 6’6 AT MOST in shoes.

  • http://www.slamonline.com/online/category/blogs/san-dova-speak-easy/ San Dova

    JERRY SHEN–>
    Doug Collins said that Pippen is about two to three inches taller than him. Doug Collins is 6’7″–that makes Pippen at least 6’9″, so Michael being in the 6’8″ range in shoes makes some sense.

  • MikeC.

    I knew Jordan was taller than his listed 6’6″ when I copped a poster of the first (and only) Dream Team. Jordan was standing beside Karl Malone and Patrick Ewing, and Mike was the same height as Malone (listed at 6’9″) and a shade shorter than Ewing (listed at 7’0″). Players heights are always a bit messed up in NBA guides. Some bigs get listed as taller than they are (Ewing, Mourning, Rodman), others intentionally get listed shorter (Duncan, KG). KG actually said (in a SLAM interview, I believe) that he’s 6 foot 13. He was afraid that if he called himself a 7-footer, they’d make him play the 5.

  • MikeC.

    While we’re playing the “first fave players” game, I’ll throw in my two bits. Ewing and the Oakman are my co-favourites. I’ll never forget the ’93 playoffs. MJ was torching the Knicks while Ewing and Oak were on the bench taking a breather. They check back in and the look on Oak’s face said it all. You just knew something was gonna go down. The next time Jordan took it to the basket, Oak punched him. No wrap up, no slap to the arms, no hard take down. Just a straight up punch to the mug. This was in the days of Riley-ball, so there was no suspension, no ejection, not even a flagrant called. Just a two-shot foul. Jordan tried laughing it off at the line, talking trash, and Oak said something back and Jordan stopped laughing. In the days prior to baseline and backboard mics, we can only guess what Oak had to say, but my money is on “Keep laughing dude, I’ll just punch you again.” Ah the good ol’ days.

  • http://www.slamonline.com/online/category/blogs/san-dova-speak-easy/ San Dova

    MIKE C.–>
    I miss Charles Oakley. The world is a better place with him.

  • http://www.shop-bags.com/ cynthia

    i love MJ. he is the first nba player that come into my minds. actually,at that time, i was only a child, a girl maybe at the age of 12, attended the primary school. my father was a basketball fan, of course he loved playing basketball at usual, and watching the NBA games. when we watched the game from tv, though i knew less about basketball, yet the passion from my father affected me so much. since that time on, i knew a team called chicago bulls, a player, an excellent player called Michael jason. still now, when i recall the old days, what a beautiful memory it is. now, i am no longer a little girl and father is no young any more, also would not play basketball, however we still keep an unique passion for nba, for mj.

    by the way, thanks Sandy Dover,i appreciate your writing style. thanks for sharing again!

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