Colin Cowherd recently took the opportunity to project the later years of Lebron James’ legacy as the Los Angeles Lakers star turned 36 years old on Dec. 30.
Cowherd was not coy in proclaiming James at 36 is in a much better position than Jordan was back in 1999.
“(Lebron) is still the best player. He is still, along with Steph Curry, the best star teammate. He’s on the best team and he’s totally uber-focused. I see no decline,” Cowherd said in a recent episode of the Herd.
Jordan, on the other hand, was stuck in a “mid-life basketball crisis,” Cowherd said. in the midst of his second retirement and wavering between coaching, managing or owning the Charlotte Hornets, Jordan’s career up to age 36 was by far more turbulent.
But in a new framing of the omnipresent Lebron-Jordan debate, Cowherd proposed the topic of who is more beloved to this day.
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Cowherd: ‘MJ is More Beloved’ to This Day
Cowherd’s case for who is more beloved coincided with the idea of marketing and how Jordan presented himself as “ordinary,” starring in ads for McDonald’s, Hanes and hot dogs.
“Michael sold ‘we are you,’ ” Cowherd said, adding that James has sold an aspirational lifestyle of expensive watches, high-class mansions including highlights from his own personal training facilities.
Cowherd added that the fact Jordan had a “choppier career” and was not nearly as well-liked by his teammates has not sullied his reputation at all because of his prevailing public persona of being an everyday person.
“(Lebron is) too willful too aspirational. In Michael’s instance, it’s the brilliance perhaps, instead of a criticism,” Cowherd said. “Michael’s not eating hot dogs, Michael’s not wearing Hanes. Probably didn’t drink much Gatorade, he likes his wine and his cigars.”
While James is also admittedly a vino like Jordan, it seems the divide between their popularity is rooted in the culture surrounding each superstar.
The Roots of Jordan’s Popularity
“The Last Dance” revealed the global superstardom that followed Jordan as one of the final worldwide icons before social media and the 24-hour news cycle has given ordinary people uncorked access to their idols.
The platform modern-day players have in 2020 has been elevated through social media and more calls for public accountability by athletes. James is one of many answering the calls for social justice like opening his own school and championing the “More Than a Vote” organization.
Jordan rarely offered any political commentary in his heyday. A profound statement from “The Last Dance” that is telling of Jordan’s legacy was his response when asked by his mother to endorse North Carolina Democrat Harvey Gant in the 1990 U.S. Senate race, saying “Republicans buy sneakers, too.”
Jordan addressed the quote after “The Last Dance” aired, saying “I don’t think that statement needs to be corrected because I said it in jest on a bus with Horace Grant and Scottie Pippen,” Jordan said, per ESPN. “It was thrown off the cuff. My mother asked to do a PSA for Harvey Gantt, and I said, ‘Look, Mom, I’m not speaking out of pocket about someone that I don’t know. But I will send a contribution to support him.’ Which is what I did.”
Jordan’s mind was purely on basketball, money and competing. His interests appealed to the widest audience possible while being outspoken politically as an athlete is still polarizing, yet encouraged.
Jordan recently contributed to James’ “More Than a Vote” foundation, pledging $10 million a year for the next 10 years — a grand gesture after years of silence in the political realm.
“I do commend Muhammad Ali for standing up for what he believed in. But I never thought of myself as an activist. I thought of myself as a basketball player,” Jordan said. “I wasn’t a politician when I was playing my sport. I was focused on my craft. Was that selfish? Probably. But that was my energy. That’s where my energy was.”
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