Tuesday, December 8, 2009
A Lot More Fame for the Hall
Michael Jordan was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame this past September. Of course there was never any question about whether or not he would be enshrined; everyone knows His Airness deserves to be there. Everyone, it seems, including MJ himself.
I had heard that Jordan's speech to the ceremony audience was a display of arrogance, but I hadn't gotten around to watching it for myself until tonight.
After watching, a question comes to mind: is it arrogance or just truth? Is Michael Jordan cocky when he speaks of his achievement in basketball? Or is he just being honest?
As a fan of MJ since as far back as I can remember, I, too, was a little put off by his display of hubris. When I originally heard about it, I had trouble believing it. Certainly he knows that you can't bluster and trash talk when you're one of the best at something; it just isn't done.
As the speech went on, though, I found myself connecting with Michael Jordan on a whole new level. I don't think it really is hubris or arrogance. I think he was just speaking the plain truth. His speech was a parade of thank yous to the many people who had inspired him over the years. That's pretty standard. The speech was also a regurgitation of the vast mental list he has been keeping since his earliest basketball days: who will challenge me to be the most competitive person to ever play a sport?
I almost feel as though we all needed to hear the speech. What a rare insight into a unique persona. Who knew what turbulent fire lurked underneath that oftentimes calm demeanor. Yes, he definitely got very excited during games, but I remember the MJ who stood at the free throw line, calmly chewing his gum with the game on the line.
I think the reaction to his speech was understandable. Just watching the audience squirm during the speech was excruciating. They were all thinking the same thing: why isn't he doing the usual humble, "I couldn't have done this without you" thing? We were all probably foolish to think that. Isn't it fitting that the greatest player ever, who was constantly able to confound expectations about what was possible in a basketball player, would confound expectations when presented with the greatest honor that can be bestowed on a basketball player?
He ended his speech by remarking that induction into the Hall of Fame isn't an endpoint to his career. He said you might see him playing at age 50. "Don't laugh," he said. "Limits, like fear, are often just an illusion."