featured image credit to CC The Ringer illustrations 2.0
Michael was smooth, Class personified, never rattled. LeBron was loud, expressive and always prepared to say what’s on his mind. Two kings who reigned differently. Both intellectuals. Both black men who held sheer dominance on and off the court. Two men who will be compared to each other till the end of time. One is the greatest of all time. The other is the king so many desperately wish would fall off his high horse. One was mum on the concepts that seemed to matter to those that looked like him. The other never hesitates to say what’s on his mind.
We’ve undisputedly known Michael Jeffery Jordan to be the GOAT when it comes to basketball. Any kid who knows basketball knows Michael Jordan. He was a master at work to watch, the way he performed every night, his love for the game was second to none. There was no other who had a fervor to win like Mike. We all wanted to be like him. We all bought his shoes, we all know the story. Mike changed the game. He individualized it, and if it weren’t for Mike, there wouldn’t be a LeBron James or any of the other stars we idolize today. However, there is a problem. Michael’s silence is disturbing when it comes to social issues, especially about race. throughout his career, Michael was apparently mum to social issues happening in America. As a matter of fact, he was silent up until 2016, where racially charged incidents occurred and appeared to have peaked in Dallas. Prior to that, you wouldn’t hear a pee from his Airness.
As a star player with lucrative endorsement deals, Jordan wasn’t known for taking a stand on issues, prompting NBA icon and activist Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to say in an NPR interview in November that Jordan “took commerce over conscience.” CNN.com
As the greatest of all time, his influence crossed barriers. Some would think that Michael was afraid of his image and his career if he spoke out against racial injustices in America. When you look at the likes of Mohammed Abdul-Rauf, who was exiled for refusing to stand for the national anthem, that fear is real. However, Shaun King recently stated that Michael at the top of his game could’ve said anything and it wouldn’t have affected his career negatively to paraphrase. This was during the All the smoke Podcast hosted by Stephen Jackson and Matt Barnes. Michael Jordan’s excuses were slim to none. He had potentially all the leeway in the world to speak up about the Rodney King riots, young inner-city kids killing each other over his shoes, amongst other racially charged incidents occurring during his reign over the NBA and the NBA would have had to bow down to him. Why? Because he’s Michael Jordan, and Jordan seemed ni untouchable at his peak.
Jordan did speak out in an undefeated piece a few years back. Jordan expressed his hurt for the “senseless violence” and expressed his belief in the policing in America. He donated 1 million dollars each to the International Association of Chiefs of Police’s newly established Institute for Community-Police Relations and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. He recognized his experiences with the police are different than everyday Americans of color and had hoped for better relations between people of color and the police. He breaking his silence was a step in the right direction, but it appeared too late.
Micheal has been a prominent figure in America for almost 4 decades now, his voice could’ve been a boon back in the ’90s or the 2000s. Even though we’re grateful to have another voice to speak out against racial injustices Michael’s silence before outweighs his decision to speak up now.
“Why are you more outspoken now than you used to be?” @craigmelvin asks Michael Jordan about formerly being “apolitical”
“When I was playing, my vision – my tunnel vision – was my craft… now I have more time to understand things around me.” -Jordan pic.twitter.com/U1p7YuPfUM
— TODAY (@TODAYshow) October 18, 2019
Michael’s explanation of his silence is understandable. However, it is never an excuse. When you look at the likes of LeBron James, who has his More than an athlete campaign, as well as been vocal about a number of social issues, This explanation of Michaels is not an excuse.
But I do understand it. Especially with the results Michael had on the court.
Jordan could’ve been more vocal, even if he doesn’t regret it, even though he is more vocal now. Everything changes and it is a positive commodity for the furthering of social change.
The likes of Mohammed Ali, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Bill Russell have spoken out during their playing careers, Jordan’s fervor for his is no excuse in any realm.
In comparison, we look at Jordan’s heir apparent, LeBron James. LeBron has spoken out against a number of social issues. We remember the 2012 picture of the Miami heat wearing their hoodies over their heads in respect for the late Trayvon Martin.
CC Lebron James 2.0
Note, this image was taken before Lebron James was a champion. This was before the world recognized him as the greatest player in the world. Before the GOAT debates. Lebron used his platform to take a stand on social issues long before he had the immortal status in the league that Michael had when he was silent.
We also remember the legendary ESPY’s speech he and his banana boat brothers Chris Paul, Dwayne Wade, and Carmelo Anthony gave to speak out on social justice in light of recent tragic events in 2016. this was a few short weeks after LeBron James led his team to the arguably the greatest comeback in sports history, capturing his third NBA title.
The one asterisk would be the time LeBron was asked to stop playing basketball because of the Tamir rice incident. LeBron had stated he hadn’t enough knowledge of the situation at hand. Something that occurred in Cleveland Oho, where he played basketball. Granted twitter and the entire social media world asked for #NojusticenoLeBron, which was unfair to LeBron James at the time.
We as a general populace should never attack an athlete’s lively hood in the name of justice. There are better ways to ask for an athlete to stand for social justice. Nevertheless, LeBron’s Ignorance of the issue was problematic. There was video evidence everywhere you look, there’s no excuse to not have knowledge on the situation. Aside from that, Lebron has had his hands dug deep into expressing his views on social issues and working towards advancing his communities. just check out his I promise School he built a few years ago for the underprivileged children in Ohio.
In comparison, Michael fails where LeBron excels at attacking racial injustices and refusing to remain silent on issues that matter. If there were anything we hold against Michael, this would be it. Michaels choice of silence is his own, however, it is inexcusable and exhausting to believe that a man we idolize would feel to distance himself from those that looked up to him.
Mike may be the GOAT, but as being a catalyst for change and a voice for the people that worshipped him he has failed us. And to this day we still see kids idolize him in the form of buying and killing for his shoes. Jordan’s are still popular, even myself, an Air Jordan 1 fan still look to buy his shoes. They’re iconic. Jordan has spoken about senseless violence when it comes to his shoes
“I thought I’d be helping out others and everything would be positive,” he says. “I thought people would try to emulate the good things I do, they’d try to achieve, to be better. Nothing bad. I never thought because of my endorsement of a shoe, or any product, that people would harm each other. Everyone likes to be admired, but when it comes to kids actually killing each other”—he pauses—“then you have to reevaluate things.”
Has he ever reevaluated things? Has he ever gone to Nike and demanded his shoes stop being overpriced? We honestly truly don’t know. However if it were up to my guess, probably no. This is because the shoes are still overpriced and overvalued, and people are still causing others harm for them. This issue does supersede Michael however. This is capitalism and its effect on poverty issue as it overvalues tangible objects that depreciate in value once they’re bought. This is an ignorance issue on inner-city people as they choose to overvalue a pair of sneakers for clout and other ideas that affect their dopamine levels.
Yet Michael’s voice would hold astronomical results to social change for his influence is still felt today.
in a comparison, Michael holds no weight in this social debate. And we need to value LeBron’s impact more because of what he has done socially. We’ll have this discussion 20 years later when Lebron’s playing days are over, but as of now, I believe LeBron will be the better-remembered athlete based off the impact he had of influencing people and inspiring them and his social activism will be a boon to that argument
Thank you for reading,