On Sunday night, Michael Jordan notched a triple-double at a time where all hope was lost after his team’s point guard had his knee shatter before our eyes in Thursday’s Game 1. He shot at a blistering 69% clip, grabbed 39 rebounds and threw the most clutch ten assists in NBA Finals history.
“Oh, wait… that wasn’t Mike Jordan? Well, who the hell is that imposter in the #23 jersey?”
On Sunday night, Draymond Green notched a triple-double at a time where…
In all seriousness, most reporters, writers and bloggers are running out of superlatives to describe LeBron James’ efforts in this postseason. Meanwhile, most of the rest are too busy sifting through memes and excessive uses of exclamation points that emphasize his flaws. Both sides are centered around one theme: whether James is being Jordan-esque or not.
When you think about how players like James are examined, it’s utterly amazing how much we watch the past in the present. Not in the sense of watching them and being reminded of the evolution of the game, but in feeling like an active player is openly disrespecting the past by placing his or her own name in the history books.
Where we watch some of the NBA’s best and brightest through the prism of James’ dominance, we view the Cleveland star through Jordan-hued lenses and Jordan-hued lenses only. When we’ve dissected the hell out of guys that aren’t Sidney Crosby or Alexander Ovechkin, we look at the NHL’s leading men as if they are an affront to men like Wayne Gretzky, Gordie Howe and Maurice Richard. For the hell we give to players that aren’t as “elite” as Tom Brady (Deflategate withstanding) or Peyton Manning, those two quarterbacks get thrice the damnation for not being Joe Montana, John Elway or for greater context, Johnny Unitas.
This has to be what hate-watching television shows must feel like.
For the uninitiated, hate-watching is the strange and silly phenomenon some people engage in where they watch a show that they claim they dislike in order to discuss how much they dislike it with other people. It’s unquestionably a stepchild of social media, but contrary to popular belief, many behaviors of social media are just adaptations of what people had always done offline in the past. Instead of waiting until you got to work the next day to chat with co-workers about a show, it can be done instantaneously and with a mix of friends and total strangers. If a comment gets retweeted or shared among fellow viewers, then for that commenter, it’s almost like Christmas in July, or rather, June.
(Sort of like how humblebragging is actually bragging with fake modesty, hate-watching is actually liking a show while adding forced comedic commentary.)
When it comes to sports, and particularly when it comes to the best of the best, it feels as if the sycophants of past legends are the hate-watchers among us.
Perhaps Jordan stans are the worst thing in modern sports, yet with all due respect, same can be said for the reflexive LeBron obsession or the almost-from-left-field insertion of Kobe Bryant into these discussions. While people need to fall back when it comes to expressing their Jordan-flavored disdain for James, why can’t everyone with a comment about who is or isn’t Jordan take a breather for a moment?
Why do we collectively refuse to let any athlete in team sports write her or his own story?
You would have thought that the modern media climate would have given us all-seeing ability to do just that. Yet, what we have done with our platforms and all the information at our avail is turn these great times in sports into exercises in hate-watching athletes of renown.
The chances of people who already “hate” LeBron James – most especially those carrying a torch for Michael Jordan – coming to some sort of appreciation of him during the remainder of the NBA Finals is as low as a snowflake in the desert. It’s not happening now or any other point in our lifetime. It’s in their nature to hate-watch him or just about anyone else who may flirt with the stature of the best marketed entity since Jesus.
Yet, he is going to keep writing his own story in sports history, just as every other athlete in team sports attempts to create his or her own. And the hate-watchers among us will have to settle for not being able to edit the text.
Jason is the editor-in-chief here at TSFJ. In addition to a past life as a research analyst in advertising, television and online media, he spent seven seasons as the New York Beacon’s beat writer for the New York Giants. Jason has written for Yardbarker, Dime Magazine, Decider, Awful Announcing and The Week. He is also a member of his high school’s 4th period gym class floor hockey champions.
He shares more of his perspectives at jasonclinkscales.com.