Some would add, for better or worse, that the pendulum has swung too far in the players’ favor. It is not — or should not be — about what stars earn, given the staggering sums that franchise stakeholders have been reaping in recent sales. (Jordan will likely be no exception if he secures a deal he’s reportedly been negotiating to cash out of the $275 million he invested in his 2010 purchase of his team.)
But Jordan-inspired superstar leverage has led to an era of chronic and chaotic team-hopping that, for older fans and some news media members, seems antithetical to their relished Jordan era. For all the disdain he had for Jerry Krause, the Bulls’ general manager during their championship years, Jordan worked with the players provided to him, mercilessly pushed them to succeed and ultimately reaped the rewards.
To emphasize that point, Jordan’s process, said David Falk, his longtime agent, was purer.
“Michael was part of a generation that went to college for a few years, identified with a program like North Carolina, instead of switching A.A.U. and high school teams whenever it suited you,” Falk said. “I asked Michael once if he ever thought about playing with Magic Johnson and Larry Bird. He said: ‘Hell, no. I wanted to kick their butt every night.’ ”
Jordan created his own controversies, mostly related to high-stakes golf, including the case of a $57,000 debt he paid by check to a man who was later convicted of money laundering. But even his legendary casino preoccupation seems more quaint now given professional sports’ unapologetic marriage to the online gaming industry.
Jordan, at 60, deserves to be viewed through the lens of an evolved narrative, given how high he has raised the bar for athletes outside the lines, a legacy that will resonate far into the future.
Twenty years after his last professional jump shot, he is arguably still the most leveraged player in sports. If he were so inclined, he might even have the muscle, upon walking away from basketball, to make a competitive run for the seat once held by Helms. His pitch, of course, was always bipartisan.