How many times have you heard about the Next Michael Jordan? Depending on how old you are, your memory, and your level of NBA fandom, that answer may vary. But the list of the guys who were once labeled as MJ’s successors is huge.
First, it was Harold Miner. Then it was Grant Hill. Then came Jerry Stackhouse. Then Vince Carter got the label. Kobe Bryant was next, as he was seen as a very worthy successor of His Airness. Then came LeBron James, after Sports Illustrated hailed him as “the Chosen One.” The list goes on, as many more guys were labeled with the “next Jordan” reference. But is that fair? Here’s what MJ himself thinks of it.
It’s not fair, but it’s a standard measurement. It’s just a standard measurement for people to compare to. But it’s never gonna be another Michael Jordan; it’s never gonna be another Dr.J., Magic Johnson, Larry Bird.Michael Jordan, Sunday Conversation
Michael’s message is clear; each NBA great is unique in his own way. Saying that one is the continuation of another is not fair. What is fair is recognizing different elements of players’ playstyles that a certain someone has implemented into his own repertoire. Thus guys will have similar traits to the guys they’re compared to, but it’s how they manifest those traits that will make them stand out.
But why draw those parallels in the first place? Why do fans have the need to equalize one’s basketball greatness with the greatness of his predecessors? According to MJ, that’s the NBA’s way of promoting their guys. It’s the association’s hype machine based on the popularity of it’s biggest stars, and it adds the pressure on guys to the label the league is trying to promote them with. But there’s a danger to that.
The credibility of the game could take a hit. If you start looking for all the dunks and all the exciting plays, you forget about certain fundamentals.Michael Jordan, Sunday Conversation
In so many ways, this is the climate in today’s NBA. Everything’s about flashiness and not about the fundamentals. People are more interested in feuds than they are in basketball. Everything’s about sensationalism, instead of it being about the game itself. And Michael saw it coming. That’s why, whenever he gets the chance, Jordan tries to steer the focus back on NBA-related things that actually matter. He did it with the GOAT debate, and 22 years ago, he also did it with the Next Michael Jordan conversation.