We’re on day sixtysomething without football, I’ve completely run out of ideas and I’m not even sure I can remember what a corner flag looks like at this stage.
When this level of writer’s block sets in, the only option is to take a topic everybody is discussing and crowbar in a tentative link to football.
Coronavirus? Bit heavy. Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? Tricky. Florence Nightingale? Awful at football. The Last Dance? Now that might just work.
If you’ve been watching The Last Dance on Netfilx- and let’s be honest, who hasn’t exhausted all their streaming options by now?- then you’ll know what I’m talking about.
But, for those psychopaths who’ve been filling their time with homemade banana bread, walks to the local park and reading Normal People, here’s a synopsis: man works himself into a perpetual rage in order to become the best in the world at throwing a ball through a hoop.
Now, how to link a documentary about Michael Jordan’s All-Star basketball career to football?
There are obvious parallels with Roy Keane. Where Jordan was part of the most successful basketball dynasties of the nineties in the Chicago Bulls, Keane was part of the nineties’ most dominant football side in Man United.
Both consistently fell out with management, with Jordan consistently going to war with Chicago Bulls general manager Jerry Krause and Keane walking out of Ireland’s 2002 World Cup camp after a fight with manager Mick McCarthy.
And, while both were serial winners, finding gushing character appraisals from team-mates would be as hard for Keane as it would be for Jordan.
But Keane didn’t have Jordan’s panache and flair on or off the pitch, so the comparisons fall short. Just think, you’d never catch him dead in a pair of high-top Air Jordans.
Then there are the comparisons with Lionel Messi, given both arguably became bigger than the team they represented.
Would Chicago Bulls be as recognisable a brand worldwide if it weren’t for Jordan? No. Would Barcelona’s name carry the same weight with younger generations if it weren’t for Messi? No.
It’s also tempting to bring in Scottie Pippen and Ronaldinho as the sidekicks who, despite immense talent, had to come to terms with living in the shadows of greatness.
But Jordan played for mes que uno club, rendering any comparison with Messi invalid.
Onwards and upwards. David Beckham wore the no.23 at Real Madrid because of his love of Jordan, and he ended his career at PSG, so how about putting him in the PSG x Jordan kit? Bit niche.
When all else fails, make it up. If that means reimagining Michael Jordan’s career as if he was a footballer then so be it.
Who could forget Jordan’s early years at
North Carolina Wallsend Boys Club?
The North East was abuzz with whispers about a generational talent from the moment Jordan laced up his first pair of non-branded football boots at Wallsend Boys Club in 1981.
After only three years he was picked up by
Chicago Bulls Newcastle United, making the transition from amateur to professional.
Although success wasn’t immediately forthcoming, Newcastle’s core of Jordan, Lee Clarke, Steve Howey and Gavin Peacock had fans dreaming that the club’s previous dormant period was about to be ended.
In 1991, Jordan won the first of league title of his career. A second followed in 1992, before a breathtaking partnership with Andy Cole fired Newcastle to a historic three-peat in 1993.
But, at the peak of his powers and with Newcastle fans gearing up for of an unprecedented period of success, Jordan shocked the world by retiring from football to pursue a career in
baseball cricket with Chicago White Socks Durham.
Despite no previous professional cricketing career to fall back on, the initial signs were promising.
Jordan impressed with a resolute 137* against a Lancashire Second XI featuring the much-vaunted Neville brothers, taking Gary for 27 off one over before a young quick by the name of Andrew Flintoff cleaned up the tail.
However, with First XI chances at Durham not forthcoming, Jordan grew restless.
On 18th March 1995, a two-word press release simply stating ‘wae’aye man’ announced Jordan’s return to Newcastle.
Once the hysteria died down, there was football to be played.
Jordan returned to a healthier squad than the one he’d left behind in 1993, with new blood in David Ginola, Les Ferdinand and the temperamental genius of
Dennis Rodman Faustino Asprilla taking Newcastle to within an inch of the title, only to fall at the final hurdle.
But that only served to fire Jordan up, and the following season his partnership with Alan Shearer took the club to new heights.
With Shearer and Jordan in tandem Newcastle were unstoppable. The Magpies completed another three-peat by winning the title in ’96, ’97 and ’98, with Jordan securing his status as the undisputed GOAT.
Having completed a three-peat and with his body beginning to fail on him, Jordan called it a day once more in 1999 after losing the title on the final day of the season.
But, this being Jordan, he couldn’t resist one last dance when Harry Redknapp called in 2001 to ask if he fancied helping keep Portsmouth in the First Division.
Jordan took Redknapp up on his promise- forming a bizarrely effective partnership with Peter Crouch in attack, aided by the guile of Robert Prosinecki- and Portsmouth comfortably avoided relegation.
Better was to come the following season when Jordan helped Portsmouth earn promotion to the Premier League, playing some of the best football of his career along with a veteran core of Paul Merson, Tim Sherwood, Shaka Hislop and Steve Stone.
When Jordan retired for a third time on 16th April 2003 it was final. Football hasn’t been the same since.
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