Michael's turning 30? Don't remind us

February 17, 1993|By Wayne Coffey | Wayne Coffey,New York Daily News

Thirty years old. Can you believe it? Michael Jordan? Yes, we must believe it. It happens today.

Where has the time gone, Michael? How could this have happened so fast? You're not going to tell us it was 11 years ago that you hit that shot to win the NCAA championship. You are? You don't really mean that this is your ninth NBA season. You do?

Michael, Michael, Michael. Don't tell us these things. You of all people. You are different. You are the most famous athlete in the world. You are the greatest basketball player in the world. It's OK if Jon Koncak turns 30. He doesn't do what you do. Nobody does what you do. You are our foremost athletic hero, a living, dunking icon of youth.

You are Michael. You walk on air. You are Air.

And now you are 30.

We should have know this would happen. We had warning. Didn't Willie Mays turn 30? Didn't Jimmy Brown? And that distinguished-looking Hall of Fame inductee last week, with the flecks of gray, wasn't that Julius Erving, 43 next week?

The problem is you, Michael. You are huge. You are everywhere. You can't buy a doughnut without causing civil unrest. Because of you, a whole generation of basketball players wears shorts the size of tents, and no hair at all. A kid wants to wear No. 23? Line forms to the right.

The legend only grows. There has been a none-too-flattering book and the flap in Barcelona over corporate logos, and that big gambling debt. Now you get all hot and drag your regal mitt across Reggie Miller's face and get suspended. None of it matters. Was it really seven years ago that you scored those 63 points against the Celtics in the playoffs?

You are so big we have been conditioned to think of you as barely mortal. We are Air-conditioned, you might say. You play above it all, so it wasn't hard to pretend that you were above it all, above even the passage of time. Did we really think that? No. Let's not take this too far. But we watch you play and we suspend belief. We suspend a lot of things. It feels natural. Feels good. You do that to us.

It's OK for Otis Thorpe to turn 30.

Tonight on your birthday, you have a game against the Utah Jazz. You will go against Jeff Malone and others, and nothing will change, probably. You will be Michael. You will make steals and hit jumpers and rebound and pass and float the way you do night after night, city after city. (By the way, Michael, what does that feel like? Can you tell us exactly? Maybe sometime, OK?)

There are many more such nights left, no doubt, health willing. Advancing years mean less and less these days, in sports and out. Aren't there people in their 70s and 80s and beyond doing all kinds of neat things? Absolutely. So why make turning 30 into some sort of signpost? Why all the fuss?

Only because we never really saw an end before, and now, even if it's four years off or eight, now we do. It's there. It is not going away. Has it really been five years since you scored 40 points in 29 minutes in that All-Star Game?

Freud once said: "It was the movement of the Air that provided the image of spirituality." He really did say that, Michael. Didn't capitalize the A, and he wasn't talking about you. But he could've been, don't you think?

Eat cake tonight, Michael. Dunk. Stick out your tongue. Dunk some more. Eat more cake. Thanks for letting us suspend belief, then and now and tomorrow, too.

Jump as high as you can, as long as you can. We know you're going to be landing sometime. We will watch, and will appreciate it for however long it lasts. It's OK for Craig Ehlo to turn 30, and Dominique Wilkins, and the more we think about, well, it's OK for you to turn 30, too.

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