A Brick Of A Speech

by Pejman Yousefzadeh on September 13, 2009

It pains me to write this, but while Michael Jordan has given Chicagoans like me a host of happy memories, while he made Chicago Titletown as far as basketball was concerned, and while he was responsible for a huge uptick in civic pride that continues to this day–it is nice for Chicago to be considered Jordan’s town, rather than being considered Capone’s town–his Hall of Fame speech was utterly petty, and is rightly considered a public relations disaster.

I can certainly appreciate Jordan’s competitive instincts, and to say the least, they manifested themselves in the course of his speech. It is obvious that in addition to the inner fire that carried him from triumph to triumph on the basketball court, there were a number of slights and insults along the way that fueled his will to win still further. Jordan channeled those slights and insults in the best way possible while a player; the best revenge is beating the people who dissed you, and Jordan certainly got his revenge on anyone stupid enough to talk smack about him and/or his game. But there was no reason whatsoever to remind people of those slights–and Jordan’s lingering resentment–on the occasion of his induction into the Hall. Jordan’s speech was an opportunity to be magnanimous, gracious, humble, and appreciative of all of the people who helped him achieve what he achieved. As for the people who upset or slighted him, the best answer would have been silence; Jordan’s induction into the Hall of Fame meant that those people failed in their efforts to either diminish or outright sabotage His Airness’s career, and there was, therefore, no reason whatsoever to mention them. Why he chose to take so much time in his speech engaging in verbal potshots at his perceived arch-enemies is a mystery. But his actions were in very bad taste, and for the first time ever, I found myself feeling sympathetic towards the likes of Isiah Thomas.

About Jordan’s remarks to his kids . . . well . . . the less said the better. But how does any father tell his kids–while the whole world is watching, no less–that it is going to suck to be them because there will be no way for the kids to get themselves out of their father’s shadow? Instead of encouraging his kids to live their dreams and make their own way, Jordan seemed to lord his accomplishments over his children. The word “scummy” comes to mind.

If Jordan’s rhetoric soared half as high as his physical self did when dunking on foes, his speech would have been one to savor and remember. Instead, he disgraced and embarrassed himself on an occasion when the basketball world sought to celebrate and laud him. Jordan was–and I say this in the most complimentary sense possible–a consummate showman when he played in the NBA. Too bad he made people want to reach for the hook while he was delivering his speech.

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