Often times when one public figure has a strong view on something, but nevertheless wishes to avoid directly offending another public figure, they will couch their opinion in veiled terms. I think that’s what Michael Jordan did yesterday when asked his opinion of the “South Beach Boys”. Let’s try to decipher what he actually said.
Literally translated what MJ said when asked about the formation of the LeBron/Wade/Bosh conglomerate was, in summary, “I wouldn’t have done it, but I played in different times. They have the chance to do it, and that’s fine.” But what was the message he was really trying to convey?
The key sentence in translating the true meaning comes when Jordan indirectly compares the South Beach Boys to his original Dream Team in 1992. He characterizes the ’92 Dream Team, you will notice, as “not really a competitive thing.”
“I’m a competitive guy and I like to play against competitive players and see what happens…”
Do you see what he’s saying? He’s saying the South Beach Boys are cowards (without saying it). He’s saying he’s competitive, and he would never have banded together with other superstars of his day to form anything that might create a situation that might be “not competitive”. Left unspoken, by contrast, is that the South Beach Boys did exactly what Jordan would not have done. One can take Jordan’s implication to be, therefore, that the South Beach Boys are not competitive like him, or perhaps even a bit afraid of competition. In sports, calling someone afraid of competition is the equivalent of calling them “yellow”.
Of course, as David Berri of the WoW Journal astutely pointed out a while ago, Jordan’s legendary competitiveness is a little overblown. He’s competitive all right — so long as the area he’s competing in is something he’s pretty good at. You notice he hasn’t really “competed” too hard in the area of general managing or owning a team, prefering instead to let things ride while he chills in Chicago. In that sense, he’s no more competitive than you or I.
That aside, I think the point Jordan indirectly made yesterday is one that kind of sits in a lot of fans craws. Even those of us who don’t begrudge the South Beach Boys tactics still maintain a bit of queasiness about the whole nature of what they did. Somehow it seems a bit rigged, doesn’t it?
I think that’s what Jordan was trying to express. In careful terms.