What is Love? The Greatest NBA Commercial of All-TimeWe live in a "Who's Now?" culture, to quote the lamentable fluff on which ESPN is wasting so much airtime. True greatness is about sustaining production over time. Michael Jordan ushered in a new type of marketing when he entered the NBA in 1984--but he backed up all the hype with substance. How would you explain Jordan's greatness to someone who never saw him play? There are a lot of adjectives that you could use--or you could just watch this video:
What is Love?
Yes, it is "just" a commercial but the footage covers the whole arc of MJ's career, from high flying, skinny rookie, to more muscular veteran battling the Pistons, to battle-tested champion, to struggling minor league baseball player, to aging yet still proud Wizard. I remember stopping in my tracks, transfixed, the first time that I saw this commercial; for someone who followed all of Jordan's career, it is like traveling in a time machine. Jordan's last line stays with you, because even though it is "just" a commercial, it rings true to how Jordan played: "Love is playing every game as if it's your last." The footage at around the 4:10 mark shows a quick glimpse of Jordan's amazing two-handed block of a Ron Mercer layup. What most people did not realize is that Jordan was basically playing on one leg; Wizards' practices were closed to the public so that no one would realize how bad Jordan's knee was, how at times he literally was dragging his leg up and down the court. Late in a game versus Chicago, Jordan felt that he was fouled but nothing was called. He raced downcourt, blocked Mercer's layup from behind, pinned it to the glass, caught the ball and barked something at Mercer. That moment is quintessential Jordan--athleticism, fury, competitiveness, trash talking, never quitting, channeling frustration into productivity. Phil Jackson often tells his teams, "Go down as you live," quoting his old teammate "Super" John Williamson's motto--fight to the end, stay true to what your core values are, never quit. To Michael Jordan, there were no "meaningless" games; a regular season game near the end of his career when he had one good leg had to be played with the same intensity as an NBA Finals game.
posted by David Friedman @ 8:43 AM