Washington Post reporter Leahy sees the legendary player’s sad return to professional basketball as a parable of all that is wrong with an industry that milks players of iconic status.
In 2000, the Washington Wizards hired Michael Jordan to be the club’s president. Surprise, surprise, writes Leahy: the move was made to capitalize on Jordan’s star power; principal owner Abe Pollin hoped to bolster the Wizards’ poor performance and, more importantly, to fill seats in the arena. Detailed by the Post to follow this story over the course of a year, the skeptical but evenhanded reporter chronicles Jordan’s abortive resurrection and explains what it was all about—essentially, money and entitlement. For the year and a half that Jordan served as a Wizards executive, he was at best an absentee landlord; later, as a player, he displayed the diminishing talents of someone kissing 40: knees in tatters, wrists twisted by tendonitis, loss of cool. Leahy is not out to do a hatchet job, but he won’t pretend to be impressed by the emperor’s new clothes. He will call Jordan for presumptuousness and uncourtly behavior, for dismissiveness and slighting of fellow players, for bad work habits and general ham-fistedness. He will cut the star a little slack for being a child of the bubble, riding high on his earnings and the absurd media grovelings (degrading evidence of journalists’ complicity in making a god out of someone who plays a game), protected to a fare-thee-well. But he will then cut Jordan down to size—a mere six feet, say—for arrogance and “how helpless he seemed to be against the pull of his appetites.” The point is that havoc trails upon sport stardom, and Leahy makes it more than well.
The self-immolating trajectory of a display of hubris worthy of Aristophanes’ contempt, complete with the inevitable fall from grace.