The Michael Jordan Industrial Complex

You may have noticed that on Friday, February 3, after Kyrie Irving requested his trade out of Brooklyn, various sports media personalities on social media were incensed that Kyrie dare steal the spotlight on “Michael Jordan Day.”

How dare Kyrie Irving upstage The Greatest There Ever Was and the Greatest There Ever Will Be™?

As far as I know, this “Michael Jordan Day” was a one time thing, because it was 2/3/23, but I wouldn’t be shocked if it becomes an annual thing the further his career slips into the past.

But why are we constantly forced to consume propaganda and be reminded of how amazing Michael Jordan was?

And why is ESPN always broadcasting it all?

I get that 2/3/23 is a unique day on the calendar, but to make it a whole entire day devoted to Michael Jordan on ESPN? Come on.

The guy won his last championship in 1998. He has not played for the Chicago Bulls in 25 years. He retired for the last time nearly 20 years ago. Why is he constantly shoved down our throats?

Sometimes it feels like a state-enforced religion that all NBA fans must adhere to. Regularly-scheduled Michael Jordan propaganda sessions on ESPN in case your mind ever wanders and you start to think maybe the whole world doesn’t revolve around him. We must all recite from the Gospel of Mike: “He was 6-0 in the Finals, never had to leave his team, nobody had more killer instinct, he played in the toughest era ever, LeBron is nothing compared to him.”

Drill that into your head, damnit! Don’t you dare be tempted by LeBron!

It’s not hard to figure out why we are still, in 2023, constantly inundated with Michael Jordan propaganda when nobody is asking for it: money.

Jordan is still insanely valuable, and that value all relies on him being the undisputed and insurmountable GOAT.

Gatorade thinks so:

Yeah, because Michael Jordan made that sugary crap into the most valuable sports drink brand on the market.

Same with Nike as well. And the NBA itself. The NBA marketed Jordan like crazy at the dawn of the TV media/information age, and thus became a powerful mainstream, commercial brand. They marketed Jordan like he was the greatest thing since sliced bread back in the 90s, and it worked tremendously well, and now the NBA and all the corporations that got wildly rich by selling Michael Jordan to the masses are now, a quarter century later, still trying to keep that gravy train going.

The NBA has a partnership with the Jordan brand:

There is a lot of money at stake behind promoting Jordan as the Greatest There Ever Was, and the Greatest there Ever Will Be™.

I call it the Jordan Industrial Complex, or the Nike-Jordan Industrial Complex. None of this is by accident. We are not constantly inundated with Jordan propaganda solely because people just want to constantly praise and worship him. I mean, there are a lot of people in the sports media, like Skip Bayless, who just have a massive boner for MJ and stan for him 24/7. But there are ulterior financial motives when it comes to these big-budget propaganda documentaries and TV productions lionizing him.

He must not be surpassed. You think people are still camping outside of shoe stores overnight for the latest Jordans if everyone starts to think LeBron is the GOAT? The Jordan Brand loses it’s luster if Jordan ceases to be viewed as the insurmountable GOAT.

Colin Cowherd was even talking about it the other day, how transparent the whole “Michael Jordan Day” thing was:

“It wasn’t long after [LeBron’s Cavs won the 2016 Championship], in fact it was the same week, that Michael Jordan agreed: ‘yeah, why don’t you come down and interview me [for the Last Dance documentary]?’ Pele during his lifetime, after his greatness, walked the streets of Brazil. MJ hides. But suddenly he was terribly available to do a 10-part series, sit down for multiple interviews, the minute there was a discussion [about] ‘We’ve got a new king.’ The greatest compliment you can give LeBron, even with super confident MJ, [LeBron’s] in his head.”

“I have the producer [of the Last Dance] saying, ‘Yeah, I was watching TV, LeBron’s at a parade, and I was flying to Charlotte the next morning to talk with Jordan.’ What a zany coincidence.

“So as LeBron James closes in on the scoring record this week, well, well, well, wouldn’t you know it? Another zany coincidence, that ESPN has decided to put together a compilation, on February 3, 2023– 2/3/23–it’ll be Michael Jordan Day, and it may just fall, just about the time LeBron will become the all-time scoring king. If you think that’s ESPN’s idea, you’re a fool. I worked there, it’s not a creative company. They do remote work and journalism and opinion, they’re not an overly creative company, that’s not what they do. It’s a treadmill. Nike, MJ’s people, protect the [Jordan] brand…

“What a coincidence! The notoriously private MJ makes himself available for a 10-part series the minute LeBron is in the discussion for the greatest. And now suddenly as LeBron is going to break the all-time scoring record: Michael Jordan Day. Yeah, I’m sure Nike had nothing to do with that...”

Colin and Nick Wright had an amazing discussion on this point, starting around the 28:29 mark:

If you are unable or unwilling to watch, I will summarize some of the best bits:

  • They talk about how after LeBron had the Championship parade in Cleveland in 2016, the very next day MJ green lit “The Last Dance.” Jordan saw the tide turning in the GOAT discussion, and he had to respond to remind people that he’s the GOAT.
  • They talk about how there was more media hype on ESPN around Steph passing Ray Allen for the three point record than there has been for LeBron becoming the all-time leading scorer. This is 100% true. ESPN spent weeks jerking off over Steph becoming the career leader in made three pointers. Meanwhile, they’re paying attention to LeBron’s chase, but you could just tell that everyone at ESPN was ready to blow a load all over the place over Steph’s three point record. With LeBron it’s more like they’re covering it obligatorily; like they know should make a big deal over it, but they’re doing the bare minimum.
  • Nick Wright: “I understand the timing on the calendar, but you also can’t convince me that’s not some editorial decision by folks who are heavily invested in Michael Jordan remaining the gold standard for everything, that we are potentially going to be a day away from LeBron breaking Kareem’s record, and we’re going to have wall-to-wall Michael Jordan coverage? I mean give me a goddamn break. So much of our sports logic for the past 30 years has not been based on what is objectively the best, but what is the most similar to Michael Jordan’s arc, that we’ve perverted so many [NBA players’ career] arcs. Like Tim Duncan was a more successful, more impactful, more winning, more everything than Kobe Bryant. But, when you say Tim Duncan was better than Kobe, it breaks some people’s brains, because they’re not judging who was better, they’re judging who was most similar to Jordan.”
  • Nick: “Since [LeBron] has been 27, a huge part of the story surrounding him has been discrediting what he’s accomplished because people want to protect Jordan.” Colin: “Can I throw this in? This is engineered by Michael, who remains a grudge-holder and incredibly petty. The reason he OK’d the use of certain footage to ESPN, because after LeBron beat the Warriors, there was real discussion that LeBron’s better than MJ. And now, as LeBron gets set to break the record, this is not coincidental. Michael is petty, he’s a grudge-holder; he still holds a grudge to Isaiah Thomas.” Nick: “And Charles Barkley, who used to be his best friend.”
    • This is a great point. And the most messed up thing about Jordan’s grudge with Isiah Thomas is that ESPN has made it their own grudge against him as well. You want to talk about a retired great who doesn’t get his due? Isiah is close to the top of the list. ESPN treats him like crap, and portrays him like he’s the villain in Jordan’s hero story. They treat Jordan like the protagonist of the NBA, and Isiah like he’s some villainous scumbag, whose only role in NBA history was to be the hurdle Jordan had to overcome on his path to greatness.

They are totally correct about Jordan and ESPN and the timing of this whole “Michael Jordan Day” thing. It’s all about upstaging LeBron and stealing his thunder, and pushing the MJ propaganda on people.

I’m sorry, but we just don’t want to hear about Michael Jordan anymore. At least not any more than we hear about Kareem, Bird, Magic, Wilt, Russell, Barkley, Dr. J and all the other long-retired NBA greats.

In fact, the more they shove Michael Jordan down our throats, the more we will resent him.

We’re sick of this gambling, alcoholic shot-chucker being praised day in, day out.

There’s now a whole corner of Twitter dedicated to exposing all the Jordan myths, and I think it’s because people are sick of having having to constantly swallow all this Jordan propaganda anytime LeBron does anything good.

There is not one football player from the 90s that is talked about today as much as Michael Jordan is talked about.

When Brady was winning his 4th, 5th and 6th Super Bowls, we were not inundated with Joe Montana propaganda designed to instill in us that Joe Montana would never be surpassed.

A lot of actually comes from Michael Jordan himself, like Colin and Nick mentioned in that clip above. Jordan doesn’t really say much publicly, and in fact for a guy as famous and revered as he is–plus the fact that he’s an NBA franchise owner–he doesn’t really make the news a whole lot. He’s almost reclusive for how famous he is.

But behind the scenes, he is a petty, vindictive, egomaniacal asshole who is terribly insecure over LeBron passing him. Any time LeBron hits a major milestone in his career, Jordan and the Nike people have to “respond” somehow, and ESPN is usually their outlet. They’ve always got to try to upstage LeBron by running the same stale, overplayed slow motion highlight reels of Jordan, and having the TV talking heads recite the same old gospel: “6-0 in the Finals, never left Chicago, played in the toughest era ever, blah blah blah.”

It’s a lot about money and the Jordan Brand, for sure, but a lot of it comes from Jordan himself.

And it has been remarkably effective. You’ve got people in their 20s, who were still wetting the bed when Jordan played his last game for the Bulls, passionately arguing and defending him in NBA discussions. They believe with all their hearts that Jordan is the best to ever do it and yet they never watched him play a single game. (I believe if they actually did go back to YouTube and pull up some old 90s Bulls games, that’s the fastest way to disabuse somebody of the notion that Jordan is better than LeBron. Just go back and watch some of those games against the Jazz; it’s horrible basketball. The defense they played on Jordan was pathetic. It’s just an all-around bad era of basketball, plus the zone defense was outlawed back then too, which basically ensured that Jordan would get to go in iso against some poor schlub on just about every possession. The NBA game of the 90s was ugly, man.)

So if the propaganda is effective, of course they’re going to keep doing it.

But more and more people are starting to get annoyed with it.

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