NORMAN — In the North American team-sport athlete pantheon — sorry, Lionel Messi fans — the man atop them all is not even an American and spent his prime playing home games nearer the Arctic Circle than Los Angeles, New York or Chicago.
And, if that pantheon only included a single entry from each sport, roundball’s played his college at Kansas, then became a Globetrotter and then became the most dominant force the game’s ever known in Philadelphia, San Francisco, Philadelphia again and Los Angeles.
Sorry Michael Jordan, but you’re no Wayne Gretzky, nor even Wilt Chamberlain.
Yet Jordan remains the barometer of our time.
All those years he was the league’s best player before he ever won a title. All those titles. All that refusing to lose.
Armed with an other-worldly skill set that turned athleticism into production in a way nobody’d every seen, he became still more than that for what he would not do: lose.
Once he won that first championship, only a brief sojourn into another sport, baseball, allowed others to steal the crown. You just knew he’d make the shot and the Bulls would win and Phil Jackson would be tabbed as more guru than coach and Scottie Pippen would continue to feel unappreciated.
And, though attempts have been made to label some — Kobe Bryant and LeBron James — as the next Jordan, there have been no serious attempts to paint anybody as remotely like Jordan.
Let’s stop that now right now. Allow me to introduce Kevin Durant.
You want to laugh Durant out of the comparison because Jordan won five MVPs and six championships, which happen to be five and six more than Durant has yet won. You want to laugh him out of the comparison because that’s Michael Jordan we’re talking about and comparing anybody to him is not allowed.