The Real Superman: His Airness

Shaquille O’Neal has a problem. Keep in mind that I do not have a degree in psychology, my diagnosis would have to be along the lines of a multiple personality disorder. Shaq-fu, or the Big Aristotle has tried to reclaim a nickname he had supposedly given himself roughly ten years ago…and the one only to be lost in a long list of names he has dubbed himself through the years. Dwight Howard 2 years ago in the slam dunk contest apparently had proclaimed himself, at least to my knowledge, as the newest Superman to lace up a pair of kicks and play ball. The problem for these two supposed owners of this supreme nickname is that Superman has already existed in the NBA…and was better than either could ever hope to be, as his name struck fear in those that opposed him while now the name has become equated with greatness…

That name is Michael Jordan…

In my opinion to be unfamiliar with his name, face, or logo is the same as not recognizing your father or mother…it just should not happen. Michael Jordan changed the way we view sports. You always had your great players in every sport before Jordan; obvious examples being Russell, Chamberlain, Howe, Orr, Yaz, Fisk, Bradshaw, Rose…naming a few. The greatness that is paralleled with these, and others, is undeniable; deservedly so. The difference between these superstars and His Airness is how Jordan was able to take his art form and transcend the world of sports and how people viewed athletes.

First, looking at his career numbers, Jordan is the greatest of all-time. He has EVERY major record for the Bulls, most which will not be even slightly touched. In all-star games MJ always brought out that competitive fire because he knew he was the best while playing amongst those considered to be the best in the world. Those numbers do not lie either; having the most points, field goals made and attempted, total steals, and is the only player to ever post a triple-double. Now, while these numbers speak for themselves, they do not truly mean anything compared to NBA records. In the regular season Jordan holds records for highest scoring average (30.1), most scoring titles (10), most consecutive scoring titles (7), most defensive first teams made (9), and most consecutive games with 10 points it more (866!). The regular season statistics are nice…now it is playoff time…
Here are the playoff records His Airness has set:
1,463 – FTA
4,497 – FGA
5,987 – Total Points
63 – Points in a single playoff game
6 – Finals MVP Awards
33.4 – PPG in playoffs
…and the ace in the hole…
41.0 – PPG in a single NBA Finals (1993)
…enough said, right?…wrong.

These are the hard figures as to why Michael Jordan was the first and last “Superman” the NBA will ever see. But Michael Jordan holds an intangible having to do with the basketball and non-basketball world alike. Jordan alone was able to do for basketball what game 6 of the 1977 World Series between Boston and Cincinnati did for the world of baseball: made it relevant to the country. The overwhelming difference is Michael made basketball relevant to THE WORLD. When the Dream Team was formed in 1992 it immediately became the greatest basketball team that did and would ever touch a court together. Yet, with all those stars combined to make a powerhouse, Michael Jordan was the one fans in Europe wanted to see and be around. He became the basketball pope with the crowds that would gather to see him.

In my view Michael Jordan became “Superman” when he sealed North Carolina’s victory over Georgetown in the NCAA Championship game. He proceeded to keep the title by taking 2 dunk titles. He continued by using his superpowers to overcome his nemesis, Isaiah and the Pistons, and winning his first title over the legend Magic Johnson. Following that up with 5 more titles in the next 7 years, which would have been 8 consecutive if he had decided to not play baseball after his fathers death. He never lost a Finals series…the aforementioned other two “super men” cannot say that. You can agree or disagree with the decisions he made about making two comebacks, but you cannot argue with the impact he made in the game and his status as the greatest player to ever lace them up, on or off the court.  Those other two players are going to have to find other nicknames.

When the list of the greatest players comes out again and the arguments start to ensue at the end of the careers of Kobe and LeBron about whether or not they were better than Jordan, it would be better to leave Michael off that list all together.  There is only one list for the best.

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