As if we needed anything else to make us feel old, how about this? Michael Jordan is 50.
MJ, His Airness, Air Jordan, has penned a half-century in the book of life, and counting.
He is widely acknowledged as the best basketball player ever. Lebron James may someday surpass him, but has a ways to go at this point.
Jordan could do it all on a basketball court, and do it in a spectacular fashion.
Rim-rattling dunks? Check. Length of the court, ankle-breaking, ball-handling wizardry? Uh-huh. Pinpoint passing? Naturally. Jumpers, baby hooks, finger rolls and other shots nearly defying description? Yeah, buddy.
Jordan made every other player around him better, including his all-world teammates on the 1992 Olympic Dream Team.
He is the gold standard in basketball, the player to which every other baller, past and present, is compared. The basketball world is constantly seeking the next Michael Jordan, just as golfdom is in a quest for the next Tiger Woods.
And now he is a middle-aged man, and a member of AARP, to boot. The seniors’ advocacy group issued Jordan his card in honor of his birthday, meaning he can get 20 percent off his check the next time he eats at Denny’s.
But despite his advancing years, and the fact he has been retired for a decade, his popularity has barely waned. His Air Jordan shoe brands remain Nike’s largest seller. At the Nike Store on Chicago’s Michigan Avenue, hundreds of people lined up in the cold, pre-dawn hours Saturday morning, clamoring to pay $250 (plus tax) for a pair of the new Air Jordan XX8 shoes, or a re-release of prior models, the Air Jordan 1 and 3.
And now he is talking about making a comeback. Reports have him working out in a concerted effort to return to his playing weight of 218 pounds. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, rookie forward of the Charlotte Bobcats, said he recently lost a one-on-one matchup to Michael. Of course, Jordan is the majority owner of the team, so Kidd-Gilchrist wouldn’t be the first employee to purposely lose to his boss in order to earn brownie points.
Happy birthday, Michael. Congratulations on the big 5-0. Did you get all the Over the Hill gag gifts? Hilarious, right? Now, please, whatever you do, stay retired.
MJ has come back a couple of times already, the first time after a stint as a baseball player and the second after serving as general manager and part-owner of the Washington Wizards. On Dec. 27, 2001, he lit up the Charlotte Hornets for 51 points. That was a high point of his third coming. A low moment came in the 2002 All-Star game, when a 39-year-old Jordan clanked a breakaway dunk off the side of the rim.
We try not to remember the Washington Jordan, preferring instead to think of him in the livery of the Chicago Bulls, tongue wagging, bald head shining in the arena lights. Likewise, we try not to remember Willie Mays as a member of the New York Mets, a 41-year-old man once falling down in the outfield after losing a ball in the sun.
Later, Mays said “Growing old is just a helpless hurt.”
You could beat everybody in the game, Michael, and could likely still be better than some NBA players today, even at your advanced age.
But you would be better served working to make the pitiful Charlotte Bobcats better. Saddling them with a 50-year-old legend who just doesn’t know when to quit isn’t the way.
Mullin is senior writer of the News & Eagle. Email him at email@example.com.