Saturday, May 16, 2015

The stubborn immortality of legend

Michael Jordan missed something like 9,000 shots in his career.

Twenty-six times he had a game-winning shot on his racquet and missed.

A bunch of other times he didn't even take the game-winning shot, yielding instead to the likes of Steve Kerr and John Paxson.

All this is to lend some perspective to the all-pervasive Catechism O' MJ, which proceeds from the premise that memory may be imperfect but is nonetheless inviolable. And so it is immutable truth that Michael Jordan never missed a shot, never failed with the game on the line, slew dragons and leaped tall buildings with a single bound. Once, the story goes, he took on Patrick Ewing, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson and Dominique Wilkins all by himself and beat them 150-0.

And so of course he could whip LeBron James one-on-one. Today. At the age of 52 and carrying, to put it diplomatically, a few more pounds than he once did.

Thirty-four percent of those polled in a recent survey actually believe this, which means they are, yes, delusional, but also captives of myth. Myth, you see, is timeless, and it has no truck with reality. And so Michael will always shoot straighter, hang in the air longer, perform more impossible feats of derring-do than any player ever has or ever will. And, if so called upon, he could do it even today.

Or tomorrow. Or next year. Or when he's shuffling around with a walker some decades hence.

And LeBron James?

Someday, when he is 52 and no longer finely chiseled, 34 percent of those polled will say he could still take whoever the next MJ or LeBron will be. Because, after all, LeBron never missed a shot, never failed in the clutch, slew dragons and leaped tall buildings with a single bound.

And so it goes.

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