Here is a picture of Michael Jordan that is famous now.
It is his airiness, a giant demonic smile on his face, packing a mostly empty bottle of tequila in one hand and a fatty case, presumably holding more bottles of tequila. He is wearing full athletic regalia, a logo of himself dunking three decades earlier splayed across his chest. It is amazing.
I probably won’t write about any other team’s owner in one of these, because none of the other team owners is the great basketball player who ever lived. But MJ is, and that means that the team he owns isn’t just an institution propped up by a rich guy: it’s a statement of purpose, a symbol of the way the man feels about the game, whether he wants it to or not.
A few years ago, the Wright Thompson wrote a profile of Jordan at 50. He seemed antsy, unable to find the rush of his past, the richest man in the world, playing cell-phone games to feed the beast of his competitive ambition. It’s revealing and also maybe the most embarrassing thing ever written about the man, a pole of pure competitive desire, looking for anything that might fill the hole inside that gets dug when you dominate the world in your twenties and thirties and then have to live the rest of your life unmoored from the thing you were the best at in the history of the universe.
The fact of his ownership of the Bobcats/Hornets, one of the NBA’s least dignified squads has been a very clear public irritation for our big, glowering man. Charlotte just isn’t an attractive market, their drafts have been colossal heaps of mediocrity, one right after another, their good moves always seem to get countered by a broader malaise that curses smaller markets.
Watching him sit on the sidelines, bleeding out of his face, clearly annoyed that he can’t plunge the key deep in his heart and unlocked the waves of destruction his body was capable of creating, decades ago, you are annoyed on his behalf. Life always traps us in our own bodies, sooner or later. For the greatest American athlete of the last ehh, 35 or so years, that came so much earlier than the mind is equipped to handle.
But, I think something has changed in his airness, after the nightmare seasons of recent vintage and the anemic recovery that resulted from their rebuild. Just look at him, strolling out of a bar and into a van, swilling a fat bottle of booze. This is a man who has given it the f**k up, who has tried to deposit all his blood into something the way he did basketball and has seen beyond the veil.
Look at this Hornet team, man. Tony Parker, a dude MJ CLEARLY signed because he’s a good hang. Biyombo, just a big ol’ bucket full of fun. Nic Batum, cool guy, very chill. This team goes beyond competition maniac Jordan. It is Tequilla Jordan’s team now, marked with the acceptance that he is living with limits, owning a basketball team with limits now. Jordan is seeking the way out of the burdens of victory, and into the delights of acceptance and fun. I celebrate him.