Man Or God? Zack Price 9-21-00 Michael Jordan: Man or God? They say being on the cover of Sports Illustrated is a jinx, that one is doomed for failure as soon as their image is displayed on the nations most popular sports magazine. It has previously happened to many athletes, and even entire teams have unreasonably dropped off the face of the earth after appearing on SIs cover. In 1987, Sports Illustrated’s baseball preview touted an Indian Rising, featuring Joe Carter and Cory Snyder of the Cleveland Indians. It said this was the year the Indians would stop being laughed at. The Indians finished with over 100 losses and dead last in the American League. Six months later SI ran the headline: Toronto takes off when the Blue Jays took a three-game lead over the Detroit Tigers with the regular season running out.
But after that cover, the Blue Jays and company collapsed and Detroit went to the playoffs. The SI jinx is widely known. Lee Smith, the bullpen star of the St. Louis Cardinals once refused to be photographed for the cover out of fear of the jinx. It’s hard to argue with him.
He retired as the all-time leader in saves. One man, maybe not even a man, but a sort of immortal, has been on the cover numerous times. Never once has he slumped, gone on inexplicable cold streaks, fallen apart under pressure, or lost the big one. He is Michael Jordan. Jordan was born on Feb.
17, 1963 in Brooklyn, NY, the fourth of five children. That spring, the family moved to Wilmington, North Carolina. Michaels family was never very wealthy during his childhood, and as a teenager he found himself mowing lawns for $1.90 per hour. As a high school sophomore Michael got cut from his high schools varsity team. Instead of being disappointed and dwelling on not making the team, he worked on his game as hard as he ever had and ended up becoming a high school All-American his senior year.
He then went on to play for North Carolina on a basketball scholarship. He made the game winning shot in the national championship game as a freshman, and turned pro 2 years later after his junior year. The Chicago Bulls drafted him with the 3rd pick in the 1984 draft. The number 23 with the word Bulls written above it is now recognizable to anyone who knows anything about basketball. His face is familiar to kids and adults alike, all around the world.
He has done commercials for tennis shoes, sports drinks, cereal, and even underwear, and all have been extremely successful. He has been in movies, television shows, and music videos, and all have been popular. In the June 22, 1998 Sports Illustrated, Michael Jordan is on the cover. He is pictured holding a basketball with two hands above his head, getting ready to loft a shot towards the opposing teams basket. His body suspended in air, as Michael was often found during a National Basketball Association game, jumping, seemingly floating over his opponents on his way to another two points.
The photo was taken in Salt Lake City, Utah, during the 6th game of the NBA Finals, the clinching game for the Chicago Bulls. This was The Shot that ended the series, giving Michael and his Bulls their sixth title, third in a row. The Most Valuable Player for all six was Michael Jordan. The SI photographer who took this wonderful picture, allows us to see just about all of Michael, aside from the tips of his shoes, which are cut-off at the bottom of the page, but assumed to be off the ground. At the top of the frame we see the ball that he is about to shoot. His entire body is perfectly centered in the middle of the page, and is the only thing on the cover that is in focus.
Everything about Michael in this picture is perfect. His feet are shoulder width apart, hips and shoulders facing his target and his grip on the ball is immaculate. The ball itself is sitting on the pads of his fingers with the laces in line with the hoop, prepared to be thrown in the air with the perfect height, distance, and touch to fall softly through the net, and seal up another championship for the city of Chicago. The concentration on Michaels face is tremendous; so much intensity and focus, he knows he is going to make this shot. His determination to win was like no other competitor – basketball player or otherwise.
This photo of Michael portrays him as a supernatural. Printed on the cover: Why no one can be like Mike. Suspended in air, completely in concentration, every little detail of his body held in perfect form. Not just a supernatural, this photo of Michael portrays him as a God. There is no need for God to situate himself in relation to others: he is himself the situation, (516 Berger) writes John Berger in his essay Ways of Seeing.
All eyes in the arena are focused on him; all cameras focused on him. What other situation is there aside from Michael shooting a basketball? It is clear that Sports Illustrated is sending the message that Michael is unlike any basketball player known to man. He has done the unthinkable, then he goes on to do the unimaginable. This frozen moment in time shows us Michaels perfection of a game that no one thought could be perfected. The look in his eyes is unmatched in determination and intensity. He simply amazes everyone to the point where they wonder how he actually performs at this level.
The text at the bottom of the screen mentions that this may not have been Michaels last shot. Now just two years since that moment, looking at the cover of this magazine we all know that it was his final shot, the end to a great career. Naturally, his final shot was a buzzer beater that went in to give the Bulls their 3rd straight NBA title. What must it have been like to be one of the fans in the background of this picture, witnessing all this beauty that is frozen in time for us? Their expressions cannot be clearly seen from our viewpoint, but there is no doubt that all eyes are on MJ. All of the Utah Jazz fans must know what is about to happen.
When was the last time Michael missed a shot with 6.9 seconds left on the clock to win the game? Many people in the background can be seen with their hands over their face, not wanting to look, knowing that the ball is going to go through the hoop but hoping, praying that it will bounce wayward. At the bottom of the page in the background, below all the desperate Jazz fans, sit he photographers. All of their equipment is pointed at MJ, naturally, but they are not as fortunate as the Sports Illustrated photographer, to catch this magnificent display of perfection. They had to have known that when the game is on the line, the ball would be in number 23s hands. They mustve had plenty of time to scurry over to the other side of the court to see this roundball magician at his best, in his final moment on the basketball court. What were they thinking? Michael will be forever remembered as one of the greatest basketball players who ever lived. His determination and perfection will be envied and admired by all who picked up a basketball at some point in their life.
Photographs give people an imaginary possession of a past that is unreal, (183 Sontag). Luckily for sports fans, this moment of perfection will be forever frozen on the cover of Sports Illustrated. Bibliography Bibliography Alesia, Mark. Before Jordan Had an Air About Him CBS Sports Gazette. 11 May 1998: (97-100).
Berger, John. Ways of Seeing. Seeing & Writing. (182-184). Boston: Bedford, 2000. Greene, Bob.
Hang Time: Days and Dreams With Michael Jordan. Boston: Bedford, 1993. McDill, Kent. MVP Award Adds to Jordans Legend, Greatness. CBS Sports Gazette.
17 May 1998: (11-15). Smith, Sam. The Jordan Rules : The Inside Story of a Turbulent Season With Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls. New York: Oxford, 1994. Sontag, Susan.
On Photography. Seeing & Writing. (512-525). Boston: Bedford, 2000. Sports Illustrated. Michael Jordan.
Seeing & Writing. (170). Boston: Bedford, 2000 Sports and Games Essays.