In case it wasn’t obvious, the first player mentioned is the greatest basketball player of all time, Michael Jordan. The second is arguably the best high school player of all time, LeBron James. If you haven’t heard the news about James over the past two weeks, then you either live in a box or should flip on Sports Center, quick!
The name LeBron has become synonymous with controversy and awe during the past few months as “King James” emerged into the national spotlight. James is supposed to be better than Tracy McGrady and Kobe Bryant were at the same age. He will be the number-one pick in the NBA draft. However, he is not, and will never be, Michael Jordan. Sorry, Lebron, but this column is about His Airness.
Jordan suited up Sunday night for the East team in his 14th, and most likely his last, All-Star Game. Although not voted as a starter, Jordan was given a starting position before the game began by fellow Tar Heel alum Vince Carter. Jordan struggled a little with his shot in the beginning of the game, but found his rhythm as usual and finished with a Jordan-esque 20 points, including a spectacular fade-away at the end of the first overtime.
Jordan’s legend grows day by day and game by game, whether he scores 15 or 45 on a particular night. At almost 40 years of age, Jordan averages 19 points and 5.5 rebounds per game-statistics that would make almost any general manager trade his shooting guard straight-up for Jordan. People laughed at me when I drafted Jordan in the fifth round of my fantasy basketball league. You know what? I’d pick him in the third round if I could do it over again. Kareem and Karl Malone may have more total points than Jordan and Wilt may have scored more in a season than he, but none of them could bring their games to the next level as Jordan did so many times.
When he wanted to, Jordan could take over a game, scoring at will. He was the most exciting player to ever play the game, using both his god-given physical talent as well as his extraordinary ability to better his teammates in order to dominate the sport through the ’90s.
I have been lucky enough to watch Jordan play against the Celtics on numerous occasions at the Boston Garden and the Fleetcenter. When he set foot on the court, every fan watching knew that something special was about to happen. Each game he plays is a gift to basketball.
As he finishes off his Hall of Fame career, I urge each and every one of you to watch just one Wizards game this season and admire the greatest to ever play the game. In our lifetimes, you and I will never again witness a basketball player as great as Michael Jordan.
Hiring and Firings: Minority Coaches
Hiring and Firings: Minority Coaches
Steve Mariucci signed a five-year, $25-million contract with the Detroit Lions this week. In any other sport, Mariucci’s signing would go relatively unnoticed. It’s not usually a big deal when the worst team in the league changes coaches, and since it’s the Lions, who really cares what they do? Since Barry Sanders retired, the Lions have been the laughing stock of the NFL, with little talent, bad coaches and, of course, cheap owners.
This signing, however, has become the talk of the league over the past week. No one is arguing that the Lions made a mistake in hiring Mariucci; he was the best coach available, a Michigan native and a seemingly perfect fit to rebuild the team. However, the Lions are now under enormous scrutiny because of the way they hired Mariucci. National Football League rules state that teams must consider and interview in person at least one minority candidate during the hiring process. According to numerous sources, the Lions did not fulfill this requirement and are thus likely to be reprimanded.
What are being overlooked in this debacle were the Lions’ attempts to interview a minority candidate. They contacted as many as five minority coaches before hiring Mariucci, but none of the coaches were willing to interview because they knew it was just a formality. The Lions wanted Mariucci all along because he was the perfect coach for them. His hiring had nothing to do with race, and the process was not discriminatory towards minorities..
The Reverend Jesse Jackson has publicly criticized the Lions for their “failure,” knowing full well that the Lions made a legitimate attempt. Jackson believes “the selection process is flawed if no minority candidates were given serious consideration as the NFL’s policy dictates.” However, Jackson’s criticism is unwarranted and frankly does not make much sense. He said that the minority coaches should not have interviewed for the Lions job, knowing that Mariucci was the choice all along, yet he criticizes the Lions for not interviewing these same coaches. “Would you interview for a job you already know is going to someone else?” he asked. “Would you allow yourself to be used by the Lions so they could get around the NFL policy? These men are not fools and shouldn’t be treated that way.”
The NFL should be commended for making provisions to assure that minority coaches receive consideration for coaching positions, but teams cannot be penalized for hiring the best candidate for their team, especially when one like Mariucci is available. Minority coaches are currently increasing in number. The Ravens hired the first minority general manager, Ozzie Newsome. The 49ers currently count two minority coaches among their top three candidates for head coach. The process may be flawed, but no one can deny that it has and is improving. And it will improve in the future, with or without the NFL slapping teams like the Lions on the wrist.