As Michael Jordan prepares to be inducted into the Hall of Fame Friday -- and NBA TV and ESPN and the Tribune scramble their coverage of Jordan's career accordingly -- we run into an old, familiar problem: there's little left to be said about the man that hasn't already been said a thousand times before.
Greatest basketball player of all-time? Check. Father of the modern athlete endorsement structure? Check. Global icon? Check. (Note to LeBron James: Want to become a global icon? Win first.) Jordan has done everything a basketball player can humanly do, and then some. And the rapturous coverage of his exploits dried up long ago.
Since his retirement Jordan's reputation has fallen. His ill-fated comeback with the Wizards delivered a few exciting moments, but Jordan was older and slower and less productive. The only reason he came back in the first place is because his front-office management so thoroughly ruined the team. Jordan's latest gig with the Charlotte Bobcats hasn't yielded any wins, and MJ has earned his reputation as a man who spends more time on the golf course than in the film room.
In the meantime, he's had a public and costly divorce with his wife and rumors of his philandering and gambling problem -- stuff that was always kept under wraps, somehow, during his playing days -- have become part of the Michael Jordan story.
But none of that really matters, at least not to Bulls fans. Jordan's career and retirement were his own; we don't control his legacy. His family life is his to manage or mangle. His front office duties are his to neglect.
At this point, all that really matters to Bulls fans about Michael Jordan -- or all that should matter, anyway -- is what he did on the court for his 15 years in a Chicago Bulls uniform. All you need to know is what you can see. All the memories, the decade of not just dominance but of some sort of God-like jaw-dropping iron-will to never lose, that, in turn, led to even more dominance. All of this was punctuated by the sort of grace and athletic beauty never seen in the game of basketball before ... that's what matters. The Michael Jordan that gave people joy. That's the Michael Jordan we choose to remember.
So congratulations, Michael, but a decade after your final shot in a Bulls uniform, the Hall of Fame is merely a formality. We kept all the best stuff inside.
Eamonn Brennan is a Chicago-based writer, editor and blogger. You can also read him at Yahoo! Sports, Mouthpiece Sports Blog, and Inside The Hall, or at his personal site, eamonnbrennan.com. Follow him on Twitter.