[Moderated by Matt Jones]
You probably didn’t hear about it, but Michael Jordan (and the rest of the world) celebrated his 50th birthday this past Sunday during NBA All-Star Weekend. As His Royal Airness approached the half-century mark, the basketball community set aside time to reflect back upon the athletic career of the greatest player to ever play the game. With Jordan nostalgia invading the minds of basketball fans all across the country, a seemingly ridiculous (yet predictable) notion once again reared its head, demanding, at the very least, consideration from anyone with a television set and/or Internet access: Does the 50-year-old Michael Jordan still have the ability to excel in the NBA today?
I scoffed, too the first time I heard the question asked. But what makes circumstances different now than in the past ten years starts with Big Blue Nation’s own Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Last Friday before the BBVA Rising Stars Challenge in Houston, the Charlotte Bobcats rookie forward revealed that Jordan, the team’s majority owner, defeated Kidd-Gilchrist in a game of one-on-one after practice about a month ago. 19-year-old Kidd-Gilchrist stands one inch taller than Jordan at 6’7″ and weighs in at a much leaner 232 lb. The former Wildcat claims, “I didn’t allow him to beat me. Because that’s my boss? Nah.”
Defeating the No. 2 overall pick in last June’s draft is only one of several signs pointing to an against-all-odds third comeback by the former Chicago Bull. Jordan has been working with a personal trainer to return to his original playing weight of 218 lb. After ballooning up to a hefty 261 lb., Michael recently shed a reported 13 lb. in nine days to drop back to a solid 248 lb. Though still a good ways away from his alleged goal, if you know anything about Jordan, you know that it will take a lot more than 30 lb. of fat to keep the most competitive man to ever step foot on a basketball court from achieving what he wants.
Lastly, as every new generation’s superstar receives the torch and takes his rightful place atop the basketball throne, he will always be compared to the last generation’s top performer (just ask Nerlens Noel). Unfortunately for LeBron James, as his game improves, the chances of escaping comparisons to the legendary Michael Jordan become essentially impossible. Though this fact comes as nothing of a surprise, Jordan still managed to turn heads this weekend by revealing his own personal blueprint for defending King James in a hypothetical one-on-one matchup. The nine-time First Team All-NBA Defender proclaimed, “I’m gonna push him left so nine times out of ten, he’s gonna shoot a jump shot. If he goes right, he’s going to the hole and I can’t stop him. So I ain’t letting him go right.”
I feel confident in speaking for every pure basketball fan in the world when I say that a Michael Jordan comeback would be the best thing that’s happened to the NBA in a long time and would simply feel like Christmas morning all over again. But who are we trying to fool here? The man is 50 years old. Sure, he beat MKG in a game of one-on-one. He’s even on track to get back to his old playing weight. Hell, he’s even the greatest player to ever play the game. But this is and always will be a young man’s league. If Mike successfully returned to tip-top shape and reentered the league tomorrow, maybe he could finish out the season in sparing minutes and maybe the NBA-worst 13-40 Bobcats could actually win a game (nobody said he was the world’s greatest owner). But if you want my advice, next time you’re feeling a little too much Jordan nostalgia, set aside an hour and a half to watch Space Jam and just ride that feeling out.
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