Sunday, May 5, 2013

We've Retired Jordan's Jersey. Let's Retire the Search for the "Next Jordan"

If you pay any attention to sports, you're going to continually hear some prospect touted as the "next Jordan" or the "next Joe Montana" (but especially the next Jordan*). I realize that this is partly a marketing tool--Jordan's popularity elevated all American team sports--to keep people watching, but to hear it repeated so often and with such seriousness depletes your mental electrolytes. Because...

The NBA is almost seventy years old. If we accept that there has only been one Jordan in seven decades, it follows that we cannot reasonably expect a new Jordan every year, or every few years. Furthermore, when we say that all these "next Jordans" didn't live up to their potential because they didn't become Michael Jordan II, we are again talking nonsense. We attached a demonstrably improbable expectation to them, and then criticized them for not meeting it. "Oh, he didn't become the next guy who has only surfaced once in 2/3 of a century? Ugh, why did he even pick up a basketball?"

It is a testament to Jordan that his career spawned its own subgenre of sports analysis. Unfortunately, "expert" sports forecasts, like most other expert forecasts, have the same pleasant tone as a test of the emergency broadcast system.

*We are also seeing it now in golf. Everyone is the next Tiger Woods.

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