His Airness, circa 1994: Michael Jordan takes a few swings at batting practice during Chicago White Sox spring training.
His Airness, circa 1994: Michael Jordan takes a few swings at batting practice during Chicago White Sox spring training. baseballdude75/flickr
It's official — Carmelo Anthony is now a New York Knick. The former Denver Nugget donned the orange and blue for the first time last Wednesday at Madison Square Garden. He lead his new squad to a 114-108 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks, and has scored at least 27 points in the first 3 games after the trade. For those following the twists and turns of the NBA this season — and more specifically "The 'Melo-Drama" — the small forward has been talking about a blockbuster trade for quite some time.
Carmelo's decision didn't appear to be dragged out nearly as long as "The Decision" — LeBron's decision. Even Nuggets Coach George Karl seems all right with it all, as he told The Denver Post:
"I'm glad its over.
I'm glad it's an opportunity to reinvent. I think everybody handled it as classy as you could handle it. There's some sadness to it, there always will be."
Yes, there will be Nuggets fans who call 'Melo "selfish" or a "villain," but at least his intentions were known nationwide months beforehand. But then I thought to myself, "Hey, it could be worse!" Yes, 'Melo is playing for a completely different team, but he's still playing the game he loves. For a second, just think about the torment Chicago Bulls fans went through at the end of the 1992-1993 season. Need a reminder? Michael Jordan retired. Out of the blue. After only nine seasons.
And this may be a coincidence or just good timing — my sports junkie friends have been coaxing me to watch this documentary on His Airness's year away from the hardwood, Jordan Rides the Bus.
The film is part of ESPN's thrilling 30 For 30 series, showcasing 30 different filmmakers each documenting a player's or team's cultural and athletic impact in years past. Filmmaker Ron Shelton (who also wrote and directed Bull Durham) chronicles Jordan's year away from the NBA to take a stab at professional baseball.
To this day, all I know about MJ's time swinging a bat instead of shooting some hoops came from the movie Space Jam. No joke. I remember him donning the black and white Birmingham Barons jersey during a few scenes of the movie, yet I didn't think twice about why he would be playing baseball for a Chicago White Sox farm team.
Why did the world's most famous athlete walk away after winning back-to-back-to-back championships with the Bulls and a gold medal with the Dream Team at the '92 Olympics? With the untimely death of his mentor — his father, James Jordan, Sr., Michael felt as if playing baseball was the one thing that would close a chapter of his life on a good note.
As sympathetic as fans were to MJ's grief, I was surprised to find out how many people thought this was a hoax. He certainly isn't the first professional athlete to switch roles in their prime (see: Deion Sanders). A majority of Jordan Rides the Bus displays how prolific of an athlete Jordan really was, and how hard he worked to improve his game: batting practice before and after games, for example. And, as the title tells us, Jordan did actually ride the same bus as his fellow minor league players, giving him a sense of humbleness and respect for the game. Although Jordan returned to the NBA just a year later, he gained the respect of critics that anything is possible.
I know, I know — comparing MJ to Carmelo is not even right. And the trade is final — 'Melo is where he wants to be. But bear with me. Every team, sooner or later, goes through a rebuilding process. While 'Melo was a huge asset to the Nuggets, it's worth noting that he gave proper notice of his desire to depart.