[Editor’s note: Matt Donnelly of NBAvoices.com is a regular reader and commenter here on Bases and Baskets and wrote this piece to share his thoughts on how the Michael Jordan brand and social media in general affected the discussion of the greatest of all time. This isn’t just a discussion of the GOAT in the NBA but across sports. Read it for yourself and share your thoughts in the comments section or on our Facebook page. (Yes, I’m plugging in social media into a conversation on the very topic.) Thanks to Matt for being a regular reader and contributing his opinion here! - EA]
In a never ending revolving stage of life changes everything we do from our thoughts to our actions. This holds true in every way shape and form when it comes to sports. The way TV, Internet, and smart phones have revolutionized the way we look at sports today.
Professional players nowadays can’t just live up to the expectations professionally anymore because of the growing age of technology and a combination of being famous. Player’s actions outside of the sport are examined like never before.
Think about how much publicity your average player in sports today accumulates over the span of their career compared decades ago just because of social media alone.
Let’s just think for a second how social media would play in the world of the NBA back in the 1960s, 70s, 80s, 90s, and how it would have had a chain reaction to the way people think about players today. Even the early to mid 2000s there wasn’t a thing as blogging every second about this player or that player via Facebook.
I could think of quite of a few things that would have happened for instance
1. The Wilt Chamberlain vs. Bill Russell debate
Even today’s NBA discussion the Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell debates holds strong. It’s been roughly 60 years and the debate is still brought up. Think about the type of scrutiny LeBron faced early in his career for not winning the big one which was multiplied exponentially with the growing speed of media. Then apply that same hatred towards the great Wilt Chamberlain. Sure he was great stat-padder, historically great offensively and defensively but so is LeBron. The difference is that it took him 9 years of media abuse to finally see some love. There’s no doubt in my mind he would have seen the same level of disrespect until he won the big one. Bill Russell would have ruled the NBA media world with and may be more respected now days for as the GOAT.
Both are respected nowadays because of what they accomplished, but many people believe they played in a weak era. They would be much more respected for what they were able to accomplish regardless of era. The same way Michael Jordan will be respected 60 years from now.
2. Larry Bird vs Magic Johnson
This debate wouldn’t have been as one-sided as I believe the Wilt vs Bill Russell debate would have been. Matter of fact in terms of legacy and skill I almost seem to think it would be #TeamBird vs #TeamMagic with way media followers latch on to certain players now days. The rivalry was so great and so propelling social media would blow up breakdowns of the two, follow their production on almost a nightly basis. People who supported Magic and Bird would have a hard time letting Michael Jordan steal the NBA thrones from either of the players it would have taken every ring and NBA Finals MVP and some of the loyalist still wouldn’t bite.
3. The history of players is viewed much differently with a much closer relationship
So many things take place with professional players on a daily basis and the technological swing invites people to have opinions about the way they live their lives regardless how good or bad they are in the sport itself. Think Riley Cooper, if this was the 1990s he would have gotten away with his harsh comments where phones with a camera weren’t invited to the public yet. Think about all the trouble players have gotten themselves into with Twitter. Well they are just showing off their personalities. Something people didn’t encounter just a short decade ago.
4. 1990s - Speaking of decades imagine if fans had social media back in the 1990’s. Think about the 1990 Chicago Bulls bandwagon of fans would accrue on the rest of the world. There was just as many strong personalities back in 1990s. Imagine if Dennis Rodman had a Twitter? The amount of fights he would have with the followers... The publicity the 1992 Dream Team would have grown exponentially. There would even be a 1992 Dream Team Facebook following each and every players move. Media would be drooling at the mouth to cover them in today’s world. (*Cough cough* Bleacher Report.)
|Just imagine this guy tweeting after a Bulls-Pistons battle on the court...|
Those are just a few of the effects social media would have had in the past the list goes on and on of what type of effect it would have had on the future.
So why exactly is Michael Jordan still an extremely iconic figure and why does he set himself apart compared too many other greats in many other sports.
Well first let’s take a look at many of the other greats and their accomplishments:
This one is almost a tossup. Mostly if you grew up an NFL fan starting back in the 1960’s there’s a good chance that generation thought Jim Brown was the greatest football player who had ever lived.
Many people now a day’s think Jerry Rice holds that candle so we will do both a favor and take a look at why they were so dominate.
Before you read this think about what a swing in technology would have on this dominance, with the way people blow stuff out of proportion 99% of the time.
Well for starters he blasted onto the NFL season immediately winning rookie of the year honors. Brown had a short 9 year career so he could become an actor. Brown still set practically every rushing record at the time including most yards per carry, most rushing yards in a season, most rushing yards in a career, most rushing touchdowns, and most total touch downs. He was named to the pro bowl ever year of his 9 year career, as physical as he was he never missed a play due to injury.
And to top it off he was the MVP 4 different seasons which are almost half of his career and lead the league in rushing 8 of his 9 years. WOW one season of his entire career he didn’t lead the league in rushing? That has consistency written all over it.
And the most impressive part of all this was the fact that he retired in his prime at the young age of 30.
When is the last time you have ever seen a WR win an MVP award sense the addition of the Super Bowl? It hasn’t been done, so why would people seem to think a WR can be the GOAT? Well here’s why. Jerry Rice is so far ahead of every other WR in NFL history in terms of his on the field impact, records, peak, and prime that no other player at any position really dominated in the fashion he did. Aside from maybe Jim Brown but he’s not even the undisputed GOAT running back which is in dispute with Barry Sanders and even Walter Payton.
Jerry Rice is #1 in just about every major receiving statistical category, but that’s not really strong enough without understanding how far off #2 in comparison for competition of all time.
· The most total touch downs in NFL history regardless of position to Emmitt Smith by 33 total touch downs and he has to rely on the QB throwing his way.
· The most receptions (1,549) with Tony Gonzalez (1,280) not even a Wide Receiver but the closest in competition with Jerry Rice for receptions at the tail end of his career and still 269 receptions off. Tight ends known as the ultimate security blanket and yet Rice triumphs any TE in NFL history in terms of reliability.
· #1 in receiving yards (22,895) with Terrell Owens trailing at 15,934. A difference of 6,961. That difference alone is a pretty solid career for any WR. Maybe not as much in an air-it-out league nowadays but assuredly 90s and before. You’ve had a solid season if you get a 1000 yards in terms of that Rice would have had just underneath 23 straight seasons of 23 1000 yard season or in terms of dominance 11 2000 yards seasons.
· Although total touchdowns was accounted for receiving touchdowns is probably obvious. But just for kicks. Jerry Rice #1 with 197 receiving touch downs. #2 Randy Moss 156 a difference of 41 or perspective 4 seasons of 10 touchdowns a very solid prime for some of the great WR’s of all time.
· Jerry Rice went onto 13 pro bowls, 10 All Pro Teams, 1988 SB MVP, and 1st Team All Pro in 2 different decades with 2 different QB’s. He was a part of 5 different SB titles including 1 of the greatest dynasties of all time.
Jerry Rice was GOAT’s Goat in terms of dominance at one position and in any general position of all time.
Babe Ruth remains to be the consensus greatest baseball player to have ever played the game. Many people who aren’t familiar with Babe Ruth and the history mainly recognize him for his great hitting. After all he did post a career average of .342, on base percentage of .474, and a .690 slugging percentage. His .690 slugging percentage and on base plus slugging percentages, 1.164 remain all time leaders in both categories
Babe Ruth revolutionized what it meant to have power. In a pitching ERA when Home Runs were an afterthought Ruth broke open a home run burial leading the league in home runs 12 times. Pitchers also knew just how dangerous he was walking him 1 out of every 5 plate appearances. Babe Ruth got to the point of being so dominate he had more home runs them some entire teams did.
But when you look a bit closer at his career you would realize how great of a pitcher he was before ever becoming a great hitter. If Babe Ruth decided to make his career solely as a pitcher he could have made the HOF. Babe Ruth had a lifetime record of 94-46 and an ERA of 2.77. His E.R.A is 16th best among all major league pitchers. 5 of the 16 pitchers pitched before 1900 when people barely knew how to hit.
If that wasn’t dominate enough Ruth pitched his best ball when it mattered most. In the World Series Ruth would go onto pitch 29 scoreless innings a record that would stand for the next 42 years. His World Series record was 3-0 with a 0.87 ERA, or less than 1 run per 9 innings.
This is testament of truly how great he was. He is the only player who would have most likely gone on to Hall Of Fame as a hitter and as a pitcher.
To cap off his legacy Babe Ruth would go onto win a total of 7 World Series creating 1 greatest dynasties in sports history with the New York Yankees.
In terms of career accomplishments Wayne Gretzky probably dominated his sport more than any other player in any sport.
Most Career Goals: 894
Wayne Gretzky had the most consecutive 40 goal seasons with 12. He had the most career games with 3 or more goals with 50 and the most in 1 season, 10. Since shorthanded goals became a recognized statistic, Gretzky's career total is 10 more than runner-up and 23 more than third-place . Wayne Gretzky also had the most playoff goals as well with 122, 13 more than #2 Mark Messier. Wayne Gretzky had the most consecutive scoring titles 7. I think it’s safe to say the dude could score.
Most career Assists: 1,963
Not only was Gretzky the greatest scorer he was also the greatest distributor as well. The next highest assist holder Ron Francis comes in at 1,249, or 714 fewer assists. A part of that record was helped by his single season assist record with 163 to beat the previous record of 135.
Gretzky has 7 of the highest single season assist records in NHL history. In perspective the most recent highest total set Joe Thornton with 96 in 2005-2006.
Gretzky also holds the playoff assist records as well with 260. Imagine that. The next highest playoff assists record held by Mark Messier with 186.
Not only was he the greatest scorer but he was also the greatest setup man as well.
Think Magic Johnson combined with Michael Jordan.
Most Career Points: 2,857
Naturally since a point is either a goal scored or an assisted goal, Gretzky can only be but the greatest.
20 Seasons of 140 wouldn’t be enough to catch this record. In the 1984-85 seasons he would go onto score 215 points the most ever in 1 season beating his previous record by 3 just 4 seasons prior. His 215 points were more than half of his entire teams’ total points 426 created by just 1 guy out of 5 starters not including bench.
En route to his most career points he has the most 100 point seasons with 15 with 13 of those being consecutively also a record. Also holds the highest points per game average with 2.77. Some teams would love 3 points a game let alone from 1 player.
Believe it or not he also holds the most points in the playoffs as well with 383. Runner up Mark Messier with 295 or in other terms 77% more than Mark.
Wayne Gretzky won 8 MVPs, had 6 trips to the Stanley Cup winning 4 of them. This my friends spells truly and utterly dominance.
So now we are off to the grueling questions of what and why Michael Jordan set him apart from the rest of the pack in terms of publicity.
Well was it his 6 Championships? No, Babe Ruth got 7 nothing that hadn’t been done. What about his 5 MVPs? No Gretzky shattered that with 8, Jim Brown had 4 more impressively in his 9 year career.
What about point scored? Jordan isn’t even the NBA’s highest leading scorer set by Kareem Abdul Jabaar let alone in 1st place by a wide margin like Gretzky was. Gretzky was even able to dominate and be the greatest scorer and distributor and although different sports still great in his own right.
But let’s set aside that Michael Jordan won 6 consecutive finals as a Chicago Bull and 6 finals MVP’s to cap it off. It may be a subjective matter but when taking a look at Wayne Gretzky’s accomplishments they were more impressive than 23’s when in comparison to the competition in NHL history.
What about legacy? Not only accomplishments but the ability to have 1’s name talked about forever. Well Babe Ruth has accomplished that feat and in an ERA where the Internet was an after, after thought from even the government at the time.
It may be ERA call it what you want but the reason Michael Jordan stands above the rest in terms of legacy is the brand he created.
Well for starters the game of basketball is growing each and every year and is widely considered the next best game outside of the Americas sport, NFL. The publicity is already in favor of the NBA over both MLB and NHL. Especially with the way the MLB that’s living a slow painful death, and the NHL that never was in the same boat as either.
When is the last time you ever heard the phrases “Be like Wayne, be like Jim, be like Jerry or be like Babe”? For starters be like Mike rhymes and it’s super catchy so it sticks in one’s mind.
Although it’s only been about a decade since MJ departure from the NBA his publicity stands stronger than it ever has and if you didn’t know any better from the medias you would still think Michael Jordan is still playing today.
From shoe brands, to clothes brands, to TV brands yes Space Jam is one of the greatest sports movies of all time when combined with the super popular Looney Tunes cartoon. The great quotes of all time and the fact that he didn’t make his high school basketball team has helped so many people fight on after they seen what he became with just a strong work ethic.
Michael Jordan has created a brand we see every day in sports commercials, compared with current NBA stars, and his name or brand get’s brought up on a daily basis in every media related source globally. That’s called branding at its finest.