From baseball to basketball, a look at Jordan's career

From baseball to basketball, a look at Jordan's career
February 15, 2013, 1:45 pm
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Michael Jordan’s older than me, but only by about one month. We both started our athletic careers playing baseball and finished playing basketball.

If you call those two things comparisons, well, they’re both accurate, but only one’s close in true accuracy.

Being about the same age as Jordan provided a fairly unique perspective in covering his amazing career. I was around him on the Bulls beat throughout his first couple of seasons and often during the second three-peat.  

The second time around –- as his stardom was shining brightest -- gave me an appreciation of all that was demanded of him. He was much more patient than I could ever be in those shoes (and I’m not talking about the Air Jordans).
Sure, he was a lot richer and universally admired, but the microscope and the demands he was under certainly had to cut into the personal enjoyment of all he represented.

Maybe the “MJ For a Day” thing would’ve been nice to try, but other than that? No, thanks. It was impossible for him to do the simplest things away from the basketball court.

Conspiracy theorists have their own ideas about why Jordan retired after that third straight title and following the death of his dad. Without any concrete proof otherwise, we have to take his reasons given at that first announcement at face value.  

Problem was, at 6’6” (which I believe was actually about 6’4), he was already at a disadvantage. Besides being away from competitive baseball for about a dozen years, there weren't a lot of long, tall players above 6'3 (besides pitchers) who'd gone all Cooperstown on us prior to two decades ago.

But the microscope found him there too, breaking down every stance, every swing, every at-bat. I wasn't  there for that open-to-the-media workout at IIT, but can remember how it was analyzed, criticized, and characterized.

That had to be a total drag for Jordan with evey passing day, whereas criticism was at a minimum in hoops. Now, the hitches, hesitancy, and moments of awkwardness were being broken down wih every move.

There were highlights, to be certain, at times when it seemed the spotlight was brightest, as detailed in our Sunday night piece. But it was the day-to-day grind that seemed to end up taking its toll on Jordan, when we (unfairly) expected him to be just as magical on the diamond as he was on the hardwood. It got to the point where Sports Illustrated told him on one of its covers to "give it up," prompting a long-running silence with that periodical.

Jordan savored the time with his hungry, minor league teammates, striving to achieve the very same goal. His deep pockets allowed them to travel in luxury. Sure, it was part of making his life easier in that transition without separating himself from the guys, but they didn't seem to mind at all.

A decade later, Terry Francona -- his manager with the Birmingham Barons -- would help end the Red Sox curse. By that time, Jordan had returned to the sport that suited him best, won three more titles, added to his MVP haul, and enhanced his legacy. Baseball was Jordan's first love, but basketball earned him the love he'll always get in this city.

We look back on highlights from Jordan's baseball career as part of "MJ: 23/50" Sunday night at 10:30 on Comcast SportsNet.