Michael Jordan's Overrated Legacy

12/12/2017

Michael Jordan was a great basketball player, the best in the league for multiple seasons but the unanimous decision sports fans and analysts have reached around the world referring to him as the greatest of all time is false.

The problem is not with Jordan, but the fact that as a society we tend to overrate the first truly great player we are exposed to. We do this with, Joe Montana, because he went 4-0 in super bowl games most consider him the greatest quarterback of all time but ignore the fact that he never reached 4,000 passing yards in a season, a threshold 13 different quarterbacks surpassed in the 2013 season; Pele is considered the greatest soccer player of all time mostly because he won three world cup trophies and scored over a 1,000 goals . . . but we ignore the fact that he played in a World Cup field of just 16 teams compared to the much more competitive 32 teams we have today  and over 400 of his 1,000+ goals came from non-competitive game.

This is the same with Jordan; society has over exaggerated his greatness. We over exaggerate what Jordan did, a controversial point Fox Sports analyst, Nick Wright exposed on national TV.  Nick Wright: We lie about what Jordan did and didn't do.

What if LeBron James' first championship didn't come until Kobe retired and the Boston Celtics' big three broke apart? We would claim that LeBron couldn't get it done against the best of his era. That is essentially what Jordan was. Larry Bird and Magic Johnson were the two greatest in the era leading up to Jordan, with 8 Championships and 6 league MVPs split between the two, they were equally as great as Jordan. In fact, Bird's dominance in the Eastern conference is why Jordan's Bulls did not make it past the second round of the playoffs until his 5th season in the league. Jordan did not win his first championship until 1990-91, which was Magic Johnson's initial last season and a season before Larry Bird retired while only averaging 19 points a game. The fact is Jordan was not able to beat Magic and Bird when they were in their peak in the playoffs. 

Then there is the statement Jordan fans like to bring up about never missing the playoffs. They ignore the fact that the league was smaller in the early Jordan years, which allowed for the 1985-86 season in which the 30-52 Chicago Bulls still made the playoffs because of a smaller 23-team league. In fact, Michael Jordan had a losing record in each of his first three seasons in the league but yet made the playoffs every year. Jordan's stellar playoff record was actually a result of a weak league with fewer teams than we have today. This shortened league also contributed to Jordan's inflated scoring numbers.

Jordan's greatest scoring season was the 86-87 NBA season in which he averaged 37.1 points a game. This looks great until you look deeper into the numbers; Jordan took 28 shots and 12 free throws per game in that season, which essentially equates to 34 shots a game. Michael Jordan was taking 34 shots a game to average those 37 points, in fact Jordan took 492 more shots and free throws than any other player in the league, oh and by the way the Bulls only won 40 games that season while losing 42. Jordan's scoring numbers that season were so inflated that if Larry Bird, the 4th top scorer in the league that season, had taken the same amount of shots he would have averaged 41.6 points a game. Jordan's scoring total becomes even more inflated when you consider that Kiki Vondeweghe, the 5th top scorer in the league that season, would have averaged 40.2 points a game had he taken the same amount of shots as Jordan. The difference is that Kiki Vondeweghe and Larry Bird played smart and efficient basketball for teams with winning records while Jordan continued to jack up shots for a losing team.

Michael Jordan was the first true superstar the world was exposed to, from the dunk contest wins to the mass shoe sponsorship that are still the best selling shoes to this day. Michael Jordan remains a huge part of society and we have blurred the line between his legend and the myth. When put into perspective, Jordan had a great career but not necessarily one greater than the other superstars we have seen in the NBA. The difference is, Jordan was the first true global superstar and therefore we overrate what he accomplished. Jordan is one of the greatest to have played basketball but not the sole greatest of all time. 


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