You may know him as MJ. Air Jordan. His Airness. But should we know him as the GOAT?
Is Michael Jordan the Greatest Sportsperson of All Time?
Over the summer, a poll caught my eye ranking the 50 greatest sportspeople of all time. Now the ranking itself was a travesty, as it was overly dominated by basketball and American football stars, who themselves were placed in a controversial order and Serena Williams was the only sportswoman to make the list at all.
Individuals with true dominance in their respective sports, such as Michael Schumacher, Phil ‘The Power’ Taylor and Rafael Nadal on clay courts (who not too long ago won his 13th title at Roland Garros) were completely overlooked, as were inspiring figures who engendered key social change, such as Billie Jean King.
However, what I did agree with – sitting atop the list – was a certain Michael Jordan.
Now I initially intended to write this article having, like many of you, been enthralled by Netflix’s ‘The Last Dance’ documentary over the summer. I chose not to in the end, feeling that I perhaps had clouded judgement, as I had just finished watching hours of a show specifically designed to celebrate the basketball GOAT himself.
The Last Dance is available on Netflix in The US starting today.
So, we asked Michael Jordan for his take on the series… https://t.co/iON8Rx4CiA
— Netflix (@netflix) July 19, 2020
Months later though, my opinion is unchanged, so here I find myself. Now, first to address the LeBron fans horrified at what they have just read in the previous paragraph, I would state that Jordan had to propel himself to the top in an era where many NBA all-time legends were in their prime.
It is this acclaim he receives from top-10 stars such as Larry Bird and Magic Johnson that, for me, means that Jordan is the true ‘King’ of basketball. What I took most from ‘The Last Dance’ is that there was never much of a debate surrounding who the best was at the time; as Johnson rather poignantly put: “there’s Michael Jordan and then there is the rest of us”.
Jordan’s level was seen as unachievable, leading to Bird describing him as “God disguised as Michael Jordan”. This allure is not one I have really sensed, having grown up in LeBron’s era of dominance. LeBron is undisputedly the best of his generation, but questions have often arisen as to whether he is still the best at various points in time throughout this era. This was never a debate with MJ.
No one has ever transcended a sport like Jordan did with basketball. With him at the forefront of their advertising, the NBA grew into the global force it is today. His cultural impact was astronomical too, with fans across the world wanting to ‘be like Mike’.
Nike had planned to sell $3 million of Air Jordan shoes in their first 4 years; within one, they had grossed $126 million in sales. Such was his commercial success, that Jordan’s net worth has recently been estimated to be over $1 billion.
He had the ultimate success story, overcoming an unimaginable personal trauma in the form of his father’s murder to show he is still the best in the world at what he does. From Space Jam, to the 1992 Olympics Dream Team, the influence Michael Jordan has had is like no other.
Admittedly, his refusal to involve himself in political and social issues, seemingly due to potential impact it would have had on his bank balance, does present a case for Muhammad Ali to be given the moniker of the greatest. Indeed, Jordan himself has since commended Ali for “standing up for what he believed in”. The Black Lives Matter movement has further illustrated the importance of sportspeople using their respective spotlights to encourage change.
However, on sporting prowess alone, it is hard to argue with Michael Jordan being the greatest sportsperson ever. He is a man that has gone by many names. His Airness. Air Jordan. MJ.
For me, the GOAT.
We hope you enjoyed this article ‘Is Michael Jordan the Greatest Sportsperson of All Time?’. Who do you think is the Greatest Sportsperson of All Time? Let us know!
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