Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Jordan speech: Hall of fame or hall of shame?

I'm getting a lot of e-mail about the column I wrote today about Michael Jordan's hall of fame speech. I found Jordan's speech to be candid and refreshing -- a peek behind the corporate image that has been so carefully crafted by Jordan's handlers for all these many years.

It was 22 minutes of pure Jordan, unvarnished and unplugged, and I liked it. The folks in the audience mostly did, too -- no one screamed out "You lie!" or anything like that (although at one point I think Isiah Thomas wanted to).

Other folks I respect have had a very opposite take. My e-mail is running about 50-50 as to whether the speech was hall of fame or hall of shame material, with some readers saying the speech was "classless" or "petty" or "vindictive."

Those readers are probably best represented by Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports. Adrian is an excellent writer and a friend. On this speech, however, I disagreed with him totally. In the interest of fair play, though, here is what Adrian wrote. Read that, read my column, watch the speech -- draw your own conclusions. Hey, but ain't that America... as John Mellencamp might say.

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MJB said...

There are a gaggle of sports figures I love to watch but never want to hear speak. Michael Jordan is not one of them. However, the speech was out of context. Certainly it is good to be "yourself", however, there is a time and a place for specific behaviors. I don't dismiss people on either side of this debate, they both have valid points. My opinion, much the same as Michael's during his speech, is open to ridicule, dissension, and praise. The point is, don't give the man a mic, and then try to tell him what he should say. He said what HE wanted to say. Good, bad, or indifferent.
In truth we all put him on a pedestal. We expected and still do, for Michael to be a grand champion of life.. all of it. If you view this as a mistake or a glimpse inside the man you have to understand he really is just a man.

Anonymous said...

It's hard to sell anyone that you "love" something when you turnaround and say that your motivation was to prove others wrong. That's a reconciliation issue that Jordan needs to deal with at some point in his life. It would appear that Jordan doesn't let go of things very easy, and moving on is a struggle for him. Heaven forbid, shall we call it a "weakness?" Or, a character flaw? Probably. I just think that the Hall Of Fame isn't the time or place to be snide in the name of "keeping it real" or being "honest." Because Jordan wasn't keeping it real or being honest. He came off genuine, but he also came off a little bitter. There are very few people on the planet that have nothing to be bitter about, and Jordan is one of them.

tmc10 said...

Those who liked this speech say that this was "Jordan as he really is." I guess the point that those of us who didn't like this speech are trying to make is this: If that is who he really is, he has a whole lot fewer people liking or admiring him than he did before. If that is who he really is then he has shown himself to be a bitter, completely self absorbed person. I'm sure his children were overcome with emotion and love when he told them "I wouldn't want to be you." Jordan has a right to say whatever he wants....but what he chose to say, as so many "supporters" point out, provided a window to who he really is. For many of his fans, who will always respect what he accomplished on the court, the window showed something they didn't like.

Rich said...

The speech was about what I expected. Tortured syntax and grammar, and a series of chips on the shoulder that should have fallen off long ago. It was MJ, unvarnished and unplugged. I found myself wincing and looking away several times. He built the entire speech not about thanking anyone, although he grudgingly got in a bit of that, but around cataloging seemingly every single perceived slight anyone had ever done. You always heard that Jordan used such disses for motivation; apparently he needed motivation to give this speech. As if the honor of being inducted into the Hall of Fame wasn't enough. For MJ, it's never enough.

OTOH, I thought John Stockton's acceptance speech was terrific. He came across as gracious and humble, and leavened it with humor and genuine gratitude - pure class. I always loved the guy, loved how he played, loved how he never did endorsements, loved how pure his love for the game appeared to be. After that speech, I'm absolutely sure. Long after Jordan's scoring records are obliterated, the all-time assists and steals marks will still reside with John Stockton. Nobody will ever break those. And the game may never see a more gracious and humble champion.