Volume 91, Issue 82

Thursday, March 5, 1998

Lady Liberty


THE EDGE:Just bag it, Mike

Michael Jordan wants out of pro basketball and really, can you blame him?

Only a few years ago, the league was at its pinnacle. Fans were converting into basketball fanatics after being abused with strikes, lockouts and high ticket prices at the ol' ball park. Sadly, it appears the tides have turned. The National Basketball Association has taken a downward spiral in performance and quality, but instead of bickering over millions of dollars, the league has become sensationalized to the point that it is worthy of a weekly Hard Copy exclusive.

Remember, this is a league that has become so desensitized that the shocking performances of Dennis Rodman are now passed off as normal and mundane. Sunday's suspension and fine of $10,000 given to Keith Askins of the Miami Heat for spitting on bench players from the New Jersey Nets following his ejection, only reinforces the problem the league is facing. The players have lost all sense of reality, honour and discipline. Even worse, the fans accept this change and continue to pack basketball arenas.

Only in the NBA would there be a debate over suspending a player for physically attacking his own coach. Latrell Sprewell, the assailant, proved the media and the fans have become so accustomed to shocking events that they had to think the punishment over.

Gone from the spotlight are the skill and hard work ethic athletes like Isiah Thomas, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson established in the 1980s.

It was Thomas' story of rising from poverty to lead the Detroit Pistons to two national championships, that sent thousands of children rushing out to the schoolyards for a game of pick-up. The rivalry of Bird and Johnson captured the imagination of millions while vying for championships with only skill and honour.

And while those legends were paving the paths for future athletes, an up-and-coming star named Michael Jordan, then a member of the North Carolina Tar Heels, was preparing to follow in their footsteps. Throughout his pro career, Jordan has been a complete gentleman. Never has he made improper comments about the style of teammate Dennis Rodman's antics, nor demanded a trade from the Bulls. Instead, Jordan has quietly endured the murder of his father and carried the weight of an entire league.

Recent interviews have quoted him as saying he will only return next year if the Bulls ownership will stop planning changes and just let his team play the game without the distractions. More than anything, he wants four-time championship-winning head coach and good friend Phil Jackson behind the bench – which management says won't happen.

All things considered, Jordan may as well walk away from the NBA now because even if Chicago gives into his demands, it won't be much time before the star retires anyway. Flee, Michael. Flee from the splash of headlines and media circuses that pro basketball has conquered so well.

Jordan is a dinosaur in a rapidly changing league. There is no need for him to push himself through extra seasons of embarrassment if the game has lost the personal excitement it once had for him. Sports Illustrated begged Jordan to stay on a recent front cover of the magazine, but is that what's best for Jordan?

He proved that he can walk away from the game when he left in 1993 to try his hand at professional baseball. This time there will be no reason to return.

To Contact The Sports Department: gazsport@julian.uwo.ca

Copyright The Gazette 1998