The GOAT? The Last Dance makes a case that Jordan is that, but also shows other sides of MJ




TOP OF THE TOWN – The first thing I got out of “The Last Dance” is that Michael Jordan is probably the best basketball player ever in the game. Now, you can’t compare athletes from different eras and make a valid assumption on them, but I’m certain that MJ belongs at least near the top if not at the top of any such discussion. To be honest, I have always pegged Wilt Chamberlain as the best basketball player of all time because he did what he wanted – be the best assist leader, the best rebounder and the top scorer – when he wanted. I realize he was not going to bring the ball up the court. He played at a time when big centers did not do that. The played in the post and that was about it. These days big centers move as well as guards and handle the ball almost as well. Different times, different players, which is why it’s impossible to accurately compare them. I also think Elgin Baylor has been underrated. I laugh when I think of Elgin because he had this tick which appeared whenever he was about to take a defender to the glass and score, which he almost always did. He was one of the first players to drive into the lane and in mid-air switch hands and score. I would about jump out of my chair when he did that. To be fair, one of the best college players I ever saw you will not recognize. That would be Tom Stith of St. Bonaventure. The profile on Stith when he was inducted into the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame in 1999 read like this: “A two-time high school All-American at St. Francis High in Brooklyn, Stith is a member of the All-Time Little Three basketball team (the Little Three included St. Bonaventure, Niagara and Canisius). Tom held the St. Bonaventure career scoring record until Bob Lanier topped it only by 15 points. Stith is currently the school’s fourth all-time leading scorer, and he is the only Bonnie to record 800 points in a season (twice). In fact, Stith set school records for points (830) and average (31.5), which still stand. Stith’s career featured nine 40-point games, and his scoring prowess landed the co-captain on 11 different All-American teams in 1961.”  Stith also once scored 67 points against the Cleveland Pipers, an American Industrial League team that later would be owned by George Steinbrenner, He was the second pick in the 1961 NBA draft by the New York Knicks, but was found to have pulmonary tuberculosis, which he played with his senior year, and never could recapture his physical health and was out of the league after one season. Stith, who died of cancer in 2010 at age of 70, recounted this story from his senior year at St. Bonaventure. He and his teammates were set to play in the NCAA East Regional Tournament in North Carolina and went to the hotel restaurant for dinner. He and three of his black teammates were told they had to go back to their hotel room and eat, Stith related in 1998 to the St. Bonaventure student newspaper, the St. Bona Venture. When the black players did that, their white teammates and coaches accompanied them. “We couldn’t eat in the main room, so no one did,” Stith recalled. “We were a team.”  I got off track a bit, but I had to tell you about Stith who has been forgotten over time, but was one of the best college players of all time. The second main thing I took from the 10-part document on Jordan is that he was not only highly competitive, but could elevate his game to a level never seen. He did that by using slights as extra motivation. When Jordan and the Chicago Bulls were set to play the Portland Trail Blazers for the NBA championship in 1992 national media was saying Portland’s “Clyde The Glide” Drexler was as good as Jordan. That did it. Jordan scored 33 points and Drexler was five of 14 from the field and scored 16 points as the Bulls ripped the Blazers 122-89 in the opening game of what turned out to be a six-game series with the Bulls winning 4-2. Jordan averaged 35.8 points, 4.8 rebounds and 6.5 assists and 1.7 steals in the six games. Jordan had the ability to use slights real or perceived to rise to heights nobody has seen before. It made him almost a god-like figure on the court. Yeah, the documentary also shows Jordan as a bully that demeaned teammates he didn’t believe were giving their all to the cause. There was tough and then there was toughness for Jordan. He demanded the best from teammates at all times. He wasn’t all trash talk, though. He put in all the work to get better and expected his teammates to follow his lead. The series also showed the loneliness that comes from being a superstar. He could not go out with teammates to eat or have a drink because his mere presence would cause chaos from admiring fans. So he was stuck in his hotel room on away games. The fact Jordan refused to use his platform to urge reforms for blacks and support African-American people and their efforts for equal justice have galled many. It’s just my perspective, but maybe Jordan is this way because of where he came from. I don’t think he ever thought of himself other than a regular guy from the backwoods of North Carolina and while he would be an unstoppable force on the basketball court he really was to his core just a regular guy off the court who didn’t see himself bigger or better than any average Joe. He showed that side by befriending the security people that protected him. They were for the most part Chicago policeman who lived regular lives and had flaws like the rest of us. Jordan loved those guys and took them into his inner circle. The love of family, especially his father James Jordan, is front and center. His father was his top critic and his idol. From the start, Jordan wanted to make his father proud and he was crushed, heartbroken, when his dad was shot and killed in 1993. The things he did on the court, Jordan did for his father. He needed his dad’s approval and support and he got all of that in spades. It’s always tough to lose a dad, but to Jordan it almost was the end of his world. James Jordan was everything to him. Today, Forbes lists Jordan, 57, at 1001on the list of billionaires. He is worth an estimated 2.1 billion and is the principal owner of the Charlotte Hornets. That’s enough for today. States are reopening the economy and maybe we are nearing the light at the end of the tunnel with this virus. In the meantime, be safe.

Be well pal.

Be careful out there.

Have a great day.

You are loved.