Sports Column: Time to let go

BY MATT MERKEL

It was a weird month for me. My childhood hero, Michael Jordan turned 50 years old, and it left me wondering about one of the most amazing legacies on the planet. Unfortunately, he is also a symbol for wearing out his welcome.

MJ is not the first to do this obviously. Look everywhere and you can find examples of things just sticking around a little too long. The Die Hard franchise, Meet the Parents “franchise,” and “The Office” are all simple examples of how something with a good initial spark can fold on themselves and turn into a farce of their original selves. It kills me to say it, but when I look back on Jordan’s legacy, it is marred by the tail end of his career with the Wizards and his current attempt to bring back the Bobcats…yuck.

Seriously though, I know I do not even have to go into it, but wow. The guy was amazing. Not only did he give me some of the greatest NBA memories of all time in the 1990’s but literally every athlete after him reveres him as the guy that inspired him to play. Just to touch on a few mind blowing records he still holds. He averaged 41 points a game in the 1993 NBA finals, collected 10 scoring titles, went 866 games in a row with double digit points and won six NBA finals (won MVP each time). The guy was a machine. Add “Space Jam” on top of that and you have the definition of everyone’s childhood hero in the 1990’s.

I grew up in Chicago when I was a little guy. Everyone talked about MJ like he was their buddy. We all felt like we knew him. He transcended sports and united everyone based solely on his “wow” factor. Every Bulls game I watched as a kid I knew I was going to discuss with my friends the next day at school. I knew I was going to brag to my future children that I saw the greatest NBA player of all time.

MJ retired, leaving a whole in my NBA heart. Then he came back in 1996, won three more championships, and retired again. I could not have been happier. He was out the door after solidifying his spot as the best that ever was.

Then something weird happened. He came back…again; this time with the Washington Wizards. He was in his late 30s and everyone could tell. He didn’t command his team the way he used to. He settled for jump shots, sat on the bench longer and looked a step slower than everyone else on the court. Who could blame him? He was up against opponents who were 10 years younger than him. Some of those guys watched him play when they were in elementary school.

The problem was that MJ was immortal to so many people. Seeing him play as an old man forces us to acknowledge that he is human. Think about how it felt watching Indiana Jones 4. Harrison Ford just looked old and confused the whole movie. That’s what it felt like watching Jordan.

Now MJ owns the Bobcats and it continues to hurt his image as the greatest that ever was. He is running that team into the ground but refuses to sell to a more responsible owner. The man is 50 years old. Nobody is saying he still needs to be at the top of the mountain. It is time to let go, Jordan. Do not put yourself in the same league as “Indiana Jones” or “Die Hard.” I miss the unadulterated memories of the MJ that dominated opponents while coaching his team and making everyone around him better. Now he is like an anchor just bringing down the career of 13 Bobcats players. Now that he is 50 years old, its time to let go and let us remember the young and immortal Michael Jordan.

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