Judging Jordan: What if Twitter was around for the MJ era?

Ryan O'Connell Columnist

By Ryan O'Connell, Ryan O'Connell is a Roar Expert

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    MJ would have copped just as much crap from Twitter as LeBron - if the platform existed in the 80s and 90s. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

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    Given LeBron James’ epic performances in the 2018 NBA Playoffs, the debate about who is the greatest basketball player of all time has really heated up of late.

    Michael Jordan versus LeBron James.

    It would have been sacrilegious to even suggest MJ had a competitor to his throne just a few years ago, but it is undeniably a legitimate debate now. You can make a very strong case for either player to be named the GOAT.

    Yet while such debates are fun fodder at the pub, they are ultimately somewhat silly arguments; especially when fans refuse to admit the greatness of whomever they don’t deem to be the greatest. That’s the point at which I check out, and actually start to question those fans’ basketball intelligence.

    It has, however, been interesting to hear many people proclaim that Jordan is the right answer because he was “universally loved”.

    It’s a flawed point to begin with, as popularity should have little impact on deciding who was a better player, but the real issue with using it as validation of Jordan’s superiority is that it’s simply not true. Jordan was most certainly not universally loved. At all.

    Trust me, I was following basketball passionately during Jordan’s career – particularly at the height of his dominance – and there were plenty of people that disliked MJ, along with many who even questioned his basketball greatness.

    The difference is, said people didn’t have the internet – especially Twitter – to enable their voice to be heard. I’ll leave it up to you to decide if that’s a good thing or not, but it does bring me nicely to a hypothetical question: what if Twitter was around during Jordan’s era?

    It was such a fun premise to think about that I came up with a series of tweets that I assure you would have been seen on Twitter and widely discussed as topics on sports shows in MJ’s day.

    After Jordan was drafted third in the 1984 NBA Draft: 19/6/84

    After Jordan wore a gold necklace in the 1985 All-Star Weekend Dunk Contest: 10/2/85

    After Jordan broke his ankle in his second season: 1/4/86

    After the Chicago Bulls were swept by the Boston Celtics in the first round of the 1986 playoffs: 26/4/86

    After Jordan’s historic 1986-87 season: 20/4/87

    After Chicago were swept by the Celtics again in the first round of the 1987 playoffs: 28/4/87

    After the Detroit Pistons eliminated the Bulls in the 1988 Eastern Conference Finals: 18/5/88

    After Jordan’s triple-double run in 1989: 14/4/89

    After the Pistons once again eliminated the Bulls from the 1990 Eastern Conference Finals – 6/5/90

    After the Bulls defeated the Los Angeles Lakers in the 1991 Finals: 12/6/91

    After Scottie Pippen and four reserves led the Chicago Bulls’ fourth-quarter comeback against the Portland Trailblazers in Game 6 of the 1992 Finals: 14/6/92

    After the New York Knicks beat Chicago in Game 2 of the 1993 Eastern Conference Finals: 25/5/93

    After it was revealed Jordan was out gambling the night before the Bulls’ Game 2 Eastern Conference Finals loss to the Knicks: 28/5/93

    After the Knicks’ Charles Smith was blocked four times in the waning seconds of Game 5 of the 1993 Eastern Conference Finals: 2/6/93

    After Jordan announced his retirement: 6/10/93

    After the 1993-94 regular season: 29/4/94

    During Jordan’s minor league baseball career: 10/3/95

    When MJ announced his comeback: 18/3/95

    After Jordan’s first game back versus the Indiana Pacers: 19/3/95

    After the Bulls lost Game 1 of the 1995 Eastern Conference semi-finals: 7/5/95

    After ‘The Flu Game’, Game 5 of the 1997 NBA Finals: 11/6/97

    After winning the 1998 NBA Championship against the Utah Jazz: 14/6/98

    After Jordan announced his second retirement: 13/1/99

    After Jordan announced he was returning to basketball with the Washington Wizards: 25/9/01

    After Jordan announced his retirement after two season with the Wizards: 16/4/03

    After some of Jordan’s gambling stories came to light: 21/10/05

    After it was revealed Jordan had punched – and been punched by – teammates: 4/2/06

    After Jordan began running the Charlotte Bobcats NBA franchise: 8/6/07

    Ergh. I feel like a shower and stiff drink after writing those imaginary hot take tweets. Yet I’d be lying if I said a small part of me didn’t enjoy being a blowhard for a little while!

    The point here – trust me, I do have one – is that as much as recency bias is a real thing, so too is nostalgia bias.

    Any sense that LeBron gets an unfair advantage in the debate because his exploits are fresh in the mind, are negating by those that look back at Jordan’s career with rose-tinted glasses, and the convenience of forgetting some details.

    By all means, celebrate Jordan’s greatness and even rate him at the undisputed GOAT, but don’t try to tell me he was universally loved, had no detractors, or never had moments of imperfection on (and off) the court.

    More importantly and pertinently, don’t pretend he wouldn’t have copped exactly the same crap on social media that LeBron currently does. Jordan was certainly subjected to his own barrage of hot takes in his day – though the term hadn’t been invented yet – but he would have copped even more if he played in today’s era.

    Ryan O
    Ryan O'Connell

    Ryan is an ex-representative basketballer who shot too much, and a (very) medium pace bowler. He's been with The Roar as an expert since February 2011, has written for the Seven Network, and been a regular on ABC radio. Ryan tweets from @RyanOak.

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    The Crowd Says (32)

    • June 15th 2018 @ 7:13am
      Peeko said | June 15th 2018 @ 7:13am | ! Report

      Extremely pertinent article. Loved the nostalgia and recency bias part

    • Columnist

      June 15th 2018 @ 9:17am
      AJ Mithen said | June 15th 2018 @ 9:17am | ! Report

      Love it Ryan. Don’t forget, Jordan beat up on bus drivers, accountants and public servants… While LeBron takes teams full of bus drivers, accountants and public servants to the finals.

    • June 15th 2018 @ 9:31am
      Jerry said | June 15th 2018 @ 9:31am | ! Report

      ….those are scarily accurate.

    • Roar Guru

      June 15th 2018 @ 9:42am
      Matt H said | June 15th 2018 @ 9:42am | ! Report

      Well they both eat babies, so ….#birdgoat

    • June 15th 2018 @ 10:54am
      Roger said | June 15th 2018 @ 10:54am | ! Report

      Amazing. Enjoyed this. I often think about how social media has changed sports and specifically the NBA.

      It really is something Jordan never had to deal with. The constant online analysis and criticism by everyone and anyone.

      My favorite bit about it is it allows “analysts” to literally pick one moment in time to make calls or assumptions. You know longer have the entire post-game to review, take a breather, write your piece, edit then publish; and have to represent all the facts in 1 piece.

      You can just say “Lebron misses 1 FT in 4th Quarter when down 4. Could of hit and made it 1 possession game. Not a winner, not clutch” and publish this without the facts his gone 45/13/11 and had 18 in the 4th.

    • June 15th 2018 @ 12:10pm
      peeko said | June 15th 2018 @ 12:10pm | ! Report

      absolute quality article with only a handful of comments? is that because people all agree? could someone tell me if its got a high read count?

      • June 15th 2018 @ 1:31pm
        mushi said | June 15th 2018 @ 1:31pm | ! Report

        That’s kind of how the internet works sadly

      • Columnist

        June 15th 2018 @ 3:13pm
        Ryan O'Connell said | June 15th 2018 @ 3:13pm | ! Report

        I thought some MJ fans would take it in the wrong spirit, but I’m fine for it to not make too much of a ripple.

        It was so enjoyable to write, perhaps out was self-indulgent!

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