Volume 92, Issue 60

Thursday, January 14, 1999



Young showing grit to spark hoopsters

Athletics seeking new strategy for the millennium

The end of an Air-a

This week in Mustang sports

The end of an Air-a

He's gone.

The greatest performer in the history of sport has left. Michael Jordan did more things for the sport of basketball than any other player before him and probably any player after him will.

This fact is upsetting many people, but nobody more than the people in charge of trying to win back fans after the long National Basketball Association's work stoppage.

The NBA is in desperate need of someone, anyone to step forward and fill Jordan's shoes, or at least try. The NBA and its fans have to realize that no one will be able to replace "His Airness." Just as no one will replace Wayne Gretzky when he retires from the National Hockey League.

Both athletes transcend their respective sports and have brought these two predominantly North American sports onto the world stage. Both brought their professional buddies with them to the Olympics and in doing so created "dream" teams which have increased the popularity of the Games without being directly related.

But Jordan has retired and we still have time to enjoy the Great One displaying his magic on the ice.

So who can replace Jordan? No one! And that's what is so great about him. He's the consummate performer and he realizes that is part of what his job entails – to entertain. He'll spend time answering the media's questions, sign autographs and do just about anything asked of him for the good of his sport.

In the generation of the spoiled athlete, Jordan rises above it all. He is a professional who is thankful for every opportunity for which he has been provided.

When he signed an enormous contract last year, $33 million for one year, no one berated him for taking too much or questioned his desire to win. Jordan earned his $33 million.

He entertained thousands of people last year. He never took a night off whether he was playing in Toronto, Denver or Sacramento. Playoffs or regular season, the fans got to see Jordan at the top of his game playing his heart out.

When he had the flu or some sort of nagging injury, Jordan always seemed to rise above it to display his greatness and uniqueness.

There will, without a doubt, be those who think this is all a ruse and that Jordan is just buying his time before he returns to save the NBA from the depths of this most recent labour dispute. Who better to save the day than Michael?

If he does return, which probably won't happen, people and fans should be grateful and not resent the fact that the NBA is doing anything it can to bring the fans back. The first time he left, Jordan was reeling from personal tragedy and rumours of gambling problems. This time he needed to come to vindicate what he'd done and finish what he started.

Bulls head coach Phil Jackson is gone. Scottie Pippen is a free agent. What better way to finish than to wipe the slate completely clean. Jordan's Bulls will be gone and there will be new contenders and new champions.

As much as the NBA would like to keep Jordan to attract fans, he is gone. It's time to move on. The Bulls have to start over and the NBA has to start over.

Both will have a tough time recovering from the Jordan hangover. But as many people know, a bad hangover generally means the party was pretty good. With Jordan gone, one party ends and another begins. Doubt this one will be as good as the last.

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Copyright The Gazette 1999