Show Me the Money

"I'll tell you what it is," Jordan shouted back. "It's the nineties, not the eighties."

The play on both sides was frenzied . . . a level of ferocity almost unmatched in basketball history. . . . It was, [coach Mike Kryzyewski] thought, like being in a house and hearing a terrible hurricane outside, then opening the door and seeing that the storm was even more powerful than envisioned.

[After Jordan's team won 36-30, a journalist asked,] " 'You just have to win every time, don't you?"

Joe Morse


Playing for Keeps: Michael Jordan and the World He Made
By David Halberstam
Random House, 426 pp., $24.95
Buy this book

Michael smiled that wonderful, radiant smile. "I try to make a habit out of it."

Near the end, Halberstam makes excuses for Jordan's apoliticality, his silent unwillingness to confront society, suggesting, "He was clearly not very good at it. Some people had a natural feel for it, grievance was in their souls, while others did not." But also because of "a fear that he might taint his value as a commercial spokesman."

It is so difficult to be a capitalist with a cause. But I cannot accept that there is no grievance in Jordan's soul. Can his intelligence and legendary warrior spirit be limited only to hoop contests and golf? Is his burn to compete against the Knicks greater than his burn to compete against real enemies like racism? We will know the full answer eventually, as his prime selling years dwindle and his tongue, once so visible, loosens, maybe enough to let us know what he's thinking in between backdoor cuts and back-end profits. But for now we just know that he has grabbed more than $250 million in nonsalary income in this decade, generated $10 billion for the economy, and wasted so much more. The premier shoe salesman of all time, he is a fitting member of the Show-Me-the-Money era. That is no compliment. He was bigger than basketball, but, in the end, our beloved was just a ballplayer.

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