This past Christmas I gave my nephews (one born in 1999, the other in 2001) a Sports Illustrated for Kids book chronicling the history of basketball. They were genuinely offended that SI rated Lebron James, not Michael Jordan as the greatest basketball player of all time.
Bear in mind that Michael Jordan played his last game with the Chicago Bulls in 1998; before either of my nephews were even born. So even though they’ve been able to “witness” King James, but not His Airness, they weren’t taken in by what psychologists call a “recency bias” that seems to plague the younger generation.
Even the authors of that SI book were duped into thinking that Lebron James was better than Michael Jordan. At least in Chapel Hill, North Carolina they still understand MJ’s rightful place in hoops history.
The North Carolina Tar Heels recently won a CBS Sports Classic game at the United Center in Chicago, and in postgame UNC Sophomore Forward Isaiah Hicks reminded me how much Michael Jordan still matters to Tar Heel basketball.
However Junior Forward Brice Johnson had the best Jordan related soundbites:
“I had a cold chill down my spine, looking up during the national anthem today. I looked up and saw his number in the rafters, saw the championships he was a part of, just a great opportunity to be able to get a win in his building.”
He was asked if trying to follow in Jordan’s footsteps, by playing at Carolina, created unfair expectations.
“It is pressure, you can’t be inconsistent like I’ve been the past couple of weeks,” he responded.
UNC Coach Roy Williams was an assistant at North Carolina when he recruited #23 to play for Dean Smith. He recalled being a part of the Bulls’ championship celebrations and spoke about soaking in all of the Michael Jordan aura that emanates from the U.C.
“We went outside and had a team picture made in front of the statue and all that kind of stuff so it’s a great experience for all the guys. He’s the greatest player to ever play the game,” said Williams.
“I feel very flattered and very honored that I helped recruit him, helped coach him, consider him a great friend, and every time I come up here, I think of a few times in that locker room after they won the world’s championships I was up here two times when they won the world’s championships.”
“The House That Michael Built will always stand, I can tell you that.”
Williams and his players appreciate the Michael Jordan mystique; even though some of it seems to have eroded away today.
Paul M. Banks owns, operates and writes The Sports Bank.net ,which is partners with Fox Sports. Read his feature stories in the Chicago Tribune RedEye edition. Listen to him on KOZN 1620 The Zone. Follow him on Twitter (@paulmbanks). His work has been featured in hundreds of media outlets including The Washington Post and ESPN 2
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