Let me qualify this by saying I am a massive MJ homer. Growing up in Chicago during the early-to-mid nineties, Michael defined winning in my eyes. I shouldn't just say winning, he defined everything. Before working for the corporate reptile, I wore Nike's because of MJ. I drank Gatorade instead of soda because of MJ. I still wear Hanes T-shirts because of MJ. I was a part of the generation who worshiped at MJ's feet, and I have no regrets. I even watched, bought the album for, and liked (and will defend) "Space Jam."
(Great movie.... stop laughing!)
I still believe that MJ retired for good in 1998, died in a car crash that was covered up by the government, and that the various incarnations of MJ that have sprung up over the years are much like the multiple versions of superman that sprung up after his "death"... imposters; In fact, the version of "Jordan" that played for the Wizards in 2001, was just a robot designed to fail in order to pump up the egos of his opponents. (I don't really believe this... or do I?) MJ never traveled, never committed a foul, and Byron Russell fell over of his own accord. MJ certainly never had a gambling problem. He was actually good at baseball, he just needed more "seasoning." Basically, I'm always in MJ's corner. So take the folowing with whatever sized grain of salt you must.
(I see nothing... clean as a whistle)
The back page article in Sports Illustrated this week was on the "new" MJ, and written by Selena Roberts. See, Michael was recently approved as the new majority owner of the Charlotte Bobcats, and apparently this returns him to being "himself." She sets up her point by talking about the string of bad publicity MJ has endured over the past decade. The poor performance with the Wizards, and his resultant firing, his quiet brooding years, and his recent induction into the basketball hall of fame. She even points to his take down of Jerry Krause during his induction speech as proof that MJ was off-kilter. (Krause, the former Bulls GM, was a caustic, fat louse who deserves whatever gruff epithet MJ deem spit at him. Fuck Jerry Krause.)
Sure, maybe MJ needs the competition, but competition certainly wasn't the problem in Washington. The worlds greatest competitor was playing, running a team, and still heavily involved in basketball. And it blew up in his face. In the interim years, he gambled incessantly, played golf for large sums of money, and joined another franchise. It wasn't "living off the radar" that made him grumpy. The man stops any room he walks into; he ain't living "off the radar" just because he doesn't talk to ESPN every 5 seconds. He certainly was back in basketball, as part of the Bobcats ownership group, when he gave his poorly received speech in Springfield, Mass. last year.
What made him "grumpy" was two things. First, for the last decade, and even longer, fans, the media, and the NBA itself have been searching for "the next Jordan." There will never be another MJ. There just wont be. Sure LeBron will probably end up with better final stats, and Kobe may finish with as many titles, but neither will have the international impact to go along with their on-court accomplishments that MJ had. MJ defined and created the new marketing possibilities that characterized his career.
The constant "Next Jordan" search must be massively insulting to the man, and he has no physical outlet to shut people up. His induction speech was all about forcing people to remember him, and to make a pass at shutting up all pretenders to his throne. It was his team, his titles, and his league... and don't you forget it! That diatribe was directed more at LeBron, Kobe and ESPN than it was at anyone he shot down. Note the part of the article where Selena refers to the cold shoulder MJ gives 'Bron 'Bron. He hates the comparisons, and it pisses him off. In all honesty, I don't expect him to ever come to terms with his own legacy.
Secondly, once he quit active basketball, and settled into retired life, he had to spend more time with his wife. I'm honestly surprised their marriage lasted as long as it did after his career ended. One of the best examples is the story Bill Simmons tells of MJ in Vegas (it's in his "Book of Basketball.") MJ's yucking it up with his posse, and then Juanita shows up. The evening is over, and the fire dies in his eyes. MJ just needed some "strange." If he's more like the old Jordan now, it's partly because he doesn't have her disapproving albatross hanging around his neck anymore.
(That's not just a smile, it's a sigh of relief)
Will MJ be a good owner.... sure? It sure won't make him "happy." That MJ was a myth anyways. Jordan wasn't the smiling corporate pitch-man White America thought he was anyways; he was the intense work-a-holic that showed on the basketball court and ruined Kwame Brown. That's the real MJ, and no amount of new challenges will change that.