It has become nearly impossible to argue against the fact that Michael Jordan is the greatest basketball player to ever walk on this planet.
Between six NBA titles, six Finals MVPs and five NBA Most Valuable Player awards, it does make sense that everyone considers the former Chicago Bulls shooting guard to be the GOAT. Even with that, though, it almost feels like Jordan’s legacy has reached the
Babe Ruth Hulk Hogan level, where you are not allowed to make an argument for someone else.
If you are unaware of the exploits of Hulk Hogan, let me give you a quick refresher on a man who rode a yellow T-shirt, a few catch lines, and four wrestling moves, into a million-dollar entertainment career. Hogan’s back story — the how, why, etc. — of becoming a wrestler is not important for this comparison, just like ignoring a gambling history in Jordan’s mythology is important to his fans. So please forgive me for failing to reminisce about the myth of Hogan. Nevertheless, Hogan eventually landed in the (then) WWF, where the company’s owner, Vince McMahon, saw a very marketable commodity. That is despite the fact that Hogan wasn’t nearly as talented in the ring as most of his colleagues or even as good on the microphone as people tend to believe he is — you know, because the legend of Hulk Hogan happens to be far greater than Hulk Hogan the wrestler ever actually was. All blasphemy coming from my fingertips, to a keyboard, to your computer screens, I know.
It didn’t matter. Standing 6’9″, with long, flowing blonde hair (he did have a bald spot, though), Hogan was a thing that was about to become a bigger thing. His most renowned attribute — an ability to talk loud enough over a microphone that he was able to trick young kids that saying your prayers and eating some Flintstone’s vitamins was a life plan — was enough for McMahon to push Hogan to the moon. (Spoiler Alert!) Wrestling is fake. So the fact that Hogan didn’t know a wristlock from a wristwatch was not important to his wrestling career. The fact that McMahon saw drawing power in him was.
Long story short, McMahon would build all sorts of “monsters” for Hogan to defeat. Unbeatable, sometimes not actually alive, horrifying beasts. All these guys were built, sometimes with an origin story of their own, to help propel the legend of Hulk Hogan. Time would pass, the WWF would make money hand over crumbling gimmick, and a rinse and repeat cycle would happen in the company for nearly 20 years. The only exception to Hogan’s run of dominance over spooky evil-doers would be outside the ring activities (steroid scandals, yay), that have never altered how people view his career.
Even more time passed, Hogan’s good guy act got stale, and the fans eventually turned on his gimmick. Now in the WCW, Hogan faced a dilemma. Much older, no longer given the benefit of the doubt by fans, colleagues, or employers, he needed to find something new. Another long story short, Hogan teamed up with young, hot, and fresh superstars to revitalize his career. This new gimmick, as the leader of the NWO, would give Hogan another slew of years at the top of the wrestling mountain. However, like all things Hulk Hogan related, the gimmick eventually got pushed too far down everyone’s collective jugulars and the product became blah– as well as insulting.
How does that make him similar to Michael Jordan? Well, Hulk Hogan the person is not that similar to Michael Jordan the person. Mind you, Jordan has his faults, but he never pretended to be some sort of statuesque role model that every kid could strive to be. I mean, he wasn’t telling kids to take their vitamins, while his vitamins were actually steroids. I am talking about the legacy of Jordan and Hogan being eerily similar. As in, the legends of both competitors have become so large, to the point of reaching a Paul Bunyan, myth like status, that neither could ever be considered to be anything other than the best.
Jordan’s accolades speak for themselves. There is no denying what he was, what he still means, and how he altered the way the NBA has gone about doing business. So, no, I am not trying to argue against the idea that Jordan is best. Instead, I am rebelling against the notion that we are not allowed to bring up such a debate. Because, heaven forbid, if you do you automatically are called things far worse than jabroni, brother, boss, or any other condescending thing a pro wrestler uses to passive aggressively insult a combatant.
Hogan is still considered to be the greatest wrestler of all time. Now, I don’t have a problem with him being one of the most important wrestlers in the history of history, but the greatest? Technically speaking, he isn’t the greatest draw in the history of the sport, nor did he take the WWF (now WWE) to the heights that a Steve Austin or the Rock did, but that hasn’t stopped people from saying that. Heck, with McMahon owning the libraries to almost every important wrestling promotion that has ever been around, granting him the ability to rewrite history as he fits, coupled with our short attention spans and orgasmic feelings over nostalgia, if anyone ever attempts to name a few guys better than Hogan, a gasp will enter the room.
Some people are going to take this the wrong way. That is because they are insane, or too fan-ish, or a little unreasonable. But I promise, I swear it, discussions over the greatest of whatever-the-hell are allowed to be heard. I get it, though. I do. It is hard to sift through all the memories, the YouTube videos you watch which portrays a moment from your youth set to Adele, and talking heads telling you so-and-so is the greatest because that generation of basketball player/wrestler/soccer mom/unicorn rider were way tougher than what is out there today. But that doesn’t mean they were better. And even if they were it doesn’t mean someone isn’t allowed to be better, at some point.
Here is what I am trying to say, in the most roundabout way as possible, using the worst analogies in the world; Michael Jordan is the GOAT. I believe that. I also believe an educated argument could be made that Magic Johnson is the GOAT, or that Bill Russell is the GOAT, but comparing bigs and guards is unfair anyway, or that LeBron James could end up being the GOAT but it is far, far too early to tell. Regardless, it is at least reasonable to think that at some point in the history of the human species a person will become better at dribbling, defending and hurling a ball at a hoop than Michael Jordan — and it is OK.
Between being a truly great basketball player, sick Nike campaigns, and Space Jam (most importantly, Space Jam), Michael Jordan is entrenched in our minds. Especially if you’re in the 25-50 age bracket. We are old enough to have seen it all or are old enough to catch the end of it all and be told how great all of it was. Either way, we cling to him because he was ours. But he isn’t everybody’s, at least not the youth’s. Just like my kid loves some purple shirt wearing cornball, I stay loyal to Marty Jannetty (while most you bums still cling to Hogan), because he is from my youth. Eh, I digress. Don’t like my opinion that are are allowed to have opinions other than Jordan being the GOAT?