This weekend, NBA commissioner David Stern will preside over his final All-Star weekend, in Houston. For sure, there will be a nice sendoff, a tribute to the man that has headed the Association for almost 30 years.
Many will talk about all the advancements the league made under his watch as there has been plenty of growth, including making the game more international.
Still, there should be one last thing Stern should do before he retires at the end of the season (or at least he should get the ball rolling on this idea). Stern should change the current NBA logo and use Nike’s Jumpman logo, featuring Michael Jordan.
Michael Jeffrey Jordan, who turns the big 5-0 on Sunday, deserves to be The Logo. Not only was he the greatest player of all time, he is the man that is most responsible for the modern NBA. Under Stern’s stewardship, Jordan was the vehicle the NBA used to go from a league deemed too black and drug-addled, to the commercial and international juggernaut that it is today. Stern should seize this opportunity to, once and for all, lock arms with Jordan and put their lasting stamp on the league they shepherded to its current state.
Although Magic Johnson and Larry Bird deserve credit for jumpstarting the transition, it was Jordan who finally distanced the league from the niche sport it was in danger of becoming. He’s the main reason the NBA transformed from a good league to a great league, must-see action. And not just for basketball heads.
Yes, everybody really wanted to be like Mike. It wasn’t just a commercial slogan. It was the real deal. Kids all over this country put down baseball gloves, some even took off football helmets. Instead, they wanted to be Michael Jordan.
If there was ever a player to have such an unprecedented move done—like change a league’s logo to his likeness—it’s His Airness.
Jordan wasn’t perfect, but his play was. Many can argue about who the greatest player in NBA history is. But that conversation can’t be had without Jordan’s name being included. For all he did on the court, there’s still nothing more impressive than his championship runs: he went 6-for-6 in Finals appearances and he won all six MVPs. No matter how great players have been after Jordan, it seems impossible that anyone can ever match that. Kobe Bryant has five rings, but has lost in the Finals twice. Even LeBron James has lost more times in the Finals than he has won in his career.
Jordan was truly great, a player you had to pay attention to—for even the casual fan. When I covered the NBA during Jordan’s reign, I could remember fans, even in NYC, secretly pining to see Jordan ball. They wanted to see Jordan do his thing at Madison Square Garden. Why? It was the dunks, the moves, the J, that wagging tongue and the ultimate swagger. No one was more confident, more compelling. No one wanted Jordan to be a flat-out bum or play terrible. They wanted to get their money’s worth when MJ came to town.
The first time the whole Jordan thing grabbed me was when I covered the Bulls-Cavs playoff series in 1989, for the Daily News in New York. I was courtside for the famous “ Shot over Craig Ehlo.” The video, as good as it is, doesn’t do the moment justice. Imagine nailing that shot, on the road, in a fifth-and-deciding game. It wasn’t like it was a wide-open shot or like there wasn’t any pressure. The pressure was sky-high. Jordan’s famous jumper was not for the game, it was for the series. It’s the ultimate make-or-miss moment. Most dudes in the NBA wouldn’t want any part of having to take that shot. Forget being a hero, they just wouldn’t want to be the goat if they missed the shot.
Of course, there were so many magical Jordan moments along the way to cement his best-ever status. That’s why Stern should make this move and let everyone from here on out always remember Jordan, the player, the man who raised the NBA’s level to what it is today.
The NBA’s current logo was fashioned after Jerry West, one of the greatest basketball players to ever live. But, Jerry West wasn’t, say, a winner like Bill Russell. He was 1-8 in the Finals as a Laker. West had no important, lasting stylistic impact on the game, like Bob Cousy or Elgin Baylor or Doctor J or Magic Johnson. He didn’t motivate rule changes, like Wilt. He was simply a great player. The logo was not made in his image for any significant reason. Legend has it that it was easier for the artist to use a left-handed dribbler.
This time, the logo would mean something, have a history behind it—it wouldn’t be the result of a happenstance selection, like it is now.
No one cares that it has been used as the logo for Air Jordan’s, Michael’s popular sneaker. It’s hard to imagine that Nike or Jordan would balk at taking it from the sneaker and moving it to the league.
It would be one thing if there wasn’t a player’s image already on the logo. But since there is, that player should be Michael Jeffrey Jordan.