Michael Jordan is widely considered the greatest basketball player in NBA history, and fans have plenty of ammo to back this up, including six championships, six NBA Finals MPVs to go along with those rings and 10 scoring titles, among other high profile awards. He dominated not only the hardwood but also Hollywood in the beloved hoops film, Space Jam. Sure, he made questionable decisions, most notably drafting Kwame Brown number one overall in the 2001 NBA Draft, but MJ’s achievements outweight his blunders.
Jordan also had the benefit of not playing in the age of social media. Nineties Internet was still in its infancy, and people were more concerned with typing “ASL” in AOL chat rooms over whining about athletes.
Then we have LeBron James, arguably the best player since MJ, but you’d have a tough time making that argument, especially considering the intense social media scrutiny that befalls King James each time he says or does something. From the infamous The Decision in 2010 (where he took his talents to South Beath) to tapping out to a broken air conditioner in last season’s NBA Finals against the Spurs, it seems LeBron can’t catch a break on Facebook and Twitter.
That said, there’s a good chance MJ would have received intense scrutiny had he played today. With that in mind, here are a few things Internet trolls would have tormented Jordan for.
Retiring to play baseball
For the record, Jordan received criticism for walking away from the NBA to pursue his passion playing America’s favorite pasttime, thus depriving the Chicago Bulls from a possible eight-peat (suck it, Pat Riley); Jordan cited the death of his father as the reason for exiting.
He walked away a champion, but stumbled in the minor leagues while the NBA failed to fill the void in his absence. Considering the circumstances behind his exit, taking a break seemed like a good idea, but Internet trolls would have unmercifully dogged MJ not only for leaving, but also his minor league exploits.
Blacklisting Isiah Thomas from the 1992 Olymic Dream Team
It was no secret the Bulls and Pistons had an intense rivalry in the late 80s and early 90s; shoving, punches, bench-clearing brawls, the works. The war extended to the playoffs, where Detroit knocked off Chicago three consecutive years (trolls would have blasted MJ online for that) until Jordan’s Bulls exacted revenge with a four-game sweep in 1991.
Turns out, the bad blood spilled onto the 1992 Olympics, when Jordan was apparently instrumental in having Pistons point guard Isiah Thomas blacklisted from the world famous Dream Team; Jordan admitted this years later.
These days, you can’t hide anything from nosey reporters, spies and even team employees trying to leak info. An NBA star blacklisting a fellow player from the Olympics? Scandal!
That strange video game, Chaos in the Windy City
These days, it’s a foregone conclusion that each active player in the NBA will appear in annual video games like NBA 2K and NBA Live, along with multiple legends. Imagine if LeBron negotiated a deal that forbade companies like 2K Games and EA Sports from putting him in their most anticipated basketball games. The nerve!
Well, Jordan opted out of the NBA’s player licensing agreement back in the day, which deprived fans of controlling his virtual persona throughout the 90s, right when sports games were growing in popularity on the Sega Genesis. He appeared in Jordan vs. Bird and Bulls vs. Lakers, but these were slim pickings in a decade with MJ at the height of his powers.
This makes Michael Jordan: Chaos in the Windy City (1994) a puzzling addition to his video game legacy. This side scrolling adventure casts players as Jordan, who attacks enemies with different basketballs.
Fortunately for Jordan, Windy City fell beneath the radar, but that wouldn’t have happened with today’s Internet.
Getting pickpocketed by Nick Anderson in the 1995 NBA Playoffs
Despite taking time off from basketball, Jordan helped lead the Bulls to the playoffs upon his return. The opponent? The Penny Hardaway and Shaq-led Magic. In game one, Jordan received the inbounds pass and lost Magic guard Nick Anderson, who followed Jordan and managed to poke the ball away, helping seal the victory for Orlando. MJ was obviously in a hurry and lost Anderson, who didn’t give up on the play. Careless mistake on MJ’s part, and he would have heard it from all the armchair players on social media.
Do we hate Michael Jordan? Never. We love MJ, even though we’re mostly New York Knicks fans. We’ll always have The Dunk, right?