I was a virgin until this weekend. I had heard about how good it was. I’d watched it on TV and movies. I’d even listened to it on the radio, but I’d never experienced it live. On Friday night, I finally saw Michael Jordan in person.

When people proclaimed him the best basketball player ever, I always quietly disagreed. Bill Russell won more championships. Wilt Chamberlain scored more points. Magic Johnson was a better passer and Larry Bird was a better shooter. After watching him in person, however, I realized how wrong I was. Michael Jordan is not only the greatest basketball player ever, he is the greatest athlete of all time.

No one else can do what Jordan has done. He scored 43 points at 40 years old. The most Chamberlain, the best scorer over an entire career, could muster was 27. The only comparable player in any sport is Nolan Ryan, who threw a no-hitter after his fortieth birthday. Ryan, however, didn’t single-handedly take a team that would only beat Georgetown by a point (I know, that really isn’t saying much) and would be a lock in the LeBron Lottery, to within percentage points of the eighth playoff seed. He’s unbelievable.

The thing that sets Jordan apart is his ability to make his team win. The only person who’s comparable is Russell. Yes, Russell has four more championships. If Jordan hadn’t taken a two year hiatus to play baseball, he would have won two more, (eight in a row), and it’s very reasonable to assume the Bulls would have beaten the Spurs during the lockout shortened season if he hadn’t retired for a second time. That would have given him nine titles. Also, Jordan was not only the leader of his team, but unquestionably the best player as well, unlike Russell, who was surrounded with Hall of Famers.

There are few athletes that have dominated in the way Jordan has. Jim Brown, Jerry Rice, Babe Ruth and Wayne Gretzky are the only players who can even hold a candle to him. Ruth and Gretzky are the greatest players in their respective sports, but there’s no way Ruth could have played a sport that involved sustained running, and Gretzky was too skinny to have been able to cross over into another sport. Rice has dominated into his forties, but wide receivers don’t have enough of an impact in football for a receiver to be called the greatest football player, let alone the greatest athlete. Brown dominated football in the same way as Jordan has basketball. He is also considered one of the greatest lacrosse players ever. He didn’t have the desire, the burning need to win, that Jordan has, however. Brown’s early retirement kept him from claiming the throne. While they are all great athletes, none of them can quite measure up to Jordan.

Jordan’s dominance of the athletic world is the most obvious when you look at the two years he played baseball. Yes, he had about as much of a chance against the curveball as Saddam does against America, and yes, he only played in the minors, but it was still an amazing accomplishment. Other athletes have played two sports before, and other athletes have excelled at two sports, but they played those sports continuously from the time they first grabbed a glove or a ball until they retired. Only Jordan could pick up a sport he hadn’t played in years, and play it at a pro level.

While Jordan was at best an average baseball player, baseball is probably the hardest sport to pick up again. You can take anyone out of crowd, hand them a basketball and they’ll be able to make a basket every once in a while. They’d be able to catch a football as well. If you gave them a bat and started pitching to them, they wouldn’t have a chance. The fact Jordan was able to compete after more then a decade away from baseball is unbelievable. If Jordan had chosen baseball as his sport, he would have been an amazing baseball player. He has that kind of athletic talent.

My first experience with Jordan’s talent was similar to everyone else’s. He fulfilled my every desire. He had 10 rebounds to go with his 43 points; his final one clinching the victory after Jason Kidd missed a three-pointer. He scored the winning points. He shook Kenyon Martin so bad that Martin fell on his face. Of course, that was one of the few shots he missed. He may be the greatest athlete of all time, but he’s still 40.

Have a reaction to this article? Write a letter to the editor.

Comments are closed.