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Saturday, September 12, 2009

Michael Jordan, David Robinson, John Stockton

Michael Jordan, David Robinson, and John Stockton were recently inducted into the National Basketball Association's Hall of Fame, and rightly so.

Jordan first gained national prominence as a member of the University of North Carolina Tar Heel men's team, in the early 80s. That team won the NCAA National Championship in 1982. The Wikipedia article on Jordan says that he led the team. That could be argued. (See here for a report on that team.) James Worthy and Sam Perkins were on that team. So were Matt Doherty and Jimmy Black. My recollection - I saw many of the team's games, including the championship game - is that Worthy was more the star than Jordan. This is borne out by Worthy's choice as most outstanding player of the 1982 NCAA tournament, and the fact that he was the first player chosen in the NBA draft. But it's a team game. They were all fine players.

Here's a CBS article on Jordan's induction speech. He said some wise things, mostly that he admonished the basketball world to stop looking for him. As he said, "You didn't find me." Jordan has had some bumps in his life. He hasn't been a hero in every way. But he was a great player, perhaps even the best ever. He could shoot, he could play defense. But his finest attribute, in his glory years in the NBA, was that he made other players better.


Robinson was a gentleman, through and through, and, I believe, he still is. He has been married only once, and he and his wife have given millions to charity. I have heard it said that Robinson is a Christian. He went to the US Naval Academy, and served two years in the Navy before entering the NBA.

Stockton, who, like Jordan and Robinson, was a member of the "Dream Team" of mostly NBA players that won the Olympic Gold medal in 1982, was said to be an invisible man in Barcelona, where the Olympics were held. For one thing, he is white, when fans were (rightly) expecting NBA stars to be mostly black. For another, he is only a little over six feet tall, and weighed less than 190 pounds during his career. Stockton is the NBA's all-time leader in career steals and assists. He was also a good shot.

Stockton and Robinson played for only one NBA team each during their entire careers, Utah and San Antonio, respectively. Jordan almost did, with Chicago. He probably played longer than he should have, and was less than world-class during his career with the Washington, DC, team. Jordan won championships with the Bulls, Robinson won one with the Spurs. Stockton's Jazz never won a championship, although they came close.

All three of these men deserve their honor. I am glad that I got to see them play on TV many times.

God gives some people ability. Some of us develop that, and some of us don't. Stockton, Jordan, and Robinson had God-given ability. They developed it. They all worked hard, and played and practiced when they'd probably rather have been doing something else.

Thanks for reading.

4 comments:

George said...

Three great players, aren't they? Your thoughts about Jordan playing longer than he should have hits on an interesting topic. Of these three inductees, two of them (Robinson and Stockton) seem to have timed their retirements well. I agree with you that Jordan went too long, even trying a stint in Major League Baseball.

Wonder why some of these elite athletes have trouble recognizing that it's time to go? It happens in other sports besides basketball, and I believe we're getting ready to watch it happen again with Brett Favre in Minnesota. Is it an ego problem, do you think?

Martin LaBar said...

I think it's partly an ego problem.

Another reason for such over-extended careers may just be that it's hard to change what you are doing. I've never been a professional athlete, but going to practice sessions and playing games don't seem to be much like, say, selling insurance or running a restaurant, and it may just be hard for many athletes to plunge into something that they know little about, where there is a big chance of failure, when they already know how to play some game well.

Thanks, George.

poker rakeback said...

I have been a big fan of Jordan's over the years, but was very disappointed in how bitter he remains so many years later. I would have liked to see him give credit to his friends, family, and teammates. I still regard him as the greatest athlete I have ever seen, but lost some respect in the process.

Martin LaBar said...

Yes. Where would Jordan have been without Scottie Pippen, Phil Jackson, Dean Smith, etc.

He had talent. Perhaps not humility.

Thanks for your comment, poker rakeback.