It's a hot take statement that has become cliché and annoying. It has to do with Michael Jeffrey Jordan, the Washington Wizards and any athlete who isn't as good as they once were. People will say: "Man, Kobe Bryant is so washed he's playing like Wizards' Jordan." Or: "It's sad watching Peyton Manning play this way. It's like when Michael Jordan played for the Wizards."
Social media and comment sections on blogs flooded with statements like this last weekend after Manning threw four interceptions, completed just five of his 20 passes, threw zero touchdowns and got benched in a loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. Since the Los Angeles Lakers' abysmal season started, Kobe has been terrible and people - as they have done for his entire career - compared him to Jordan in his twilight years. When people see plays like this, it's easy to get caught up in the hype:
But the people sending these Tweets or making these comments are wrong.
Most of them never actually saw Jordan play in a Wizards' uniform, or they just forgot what it was like.
Whatever the case is, people should remember this:
Michael Jordan is the greatest basketball player of all time. Even in the final two seasons of his playing career, starring at shooting guard for D.C.'s NBA team, he was still very good for his age, and he was much better at basketball than Kobe is now, and much better at his sport than Manning is at his sport.
For comparison, here's a look at how Jordan performed in his final season with the Wizards, compared with what Kobe Bryant is doing right now (via the good folks at Basketball-Reference):
Some other notes about Jordan's time in Washington:
- During his two seasons in Washington, Jordan scored more than 40 points in a game eight times.
- On December 29, 2001, he scored 51 points, grabbed seven rebounds and dished out four assists in 38 minutes of play in a 107-90 win at home over the Charlotte Hornets.
- In those two seasons, Jordan dropped 21 double-doubles.
- Jordan played more than 45 minutes in a game seven times in his two Wizards seasons.
- In his final season, after tearing cartilage in his knee a year before, Jordan played in every game, starting 67 of them.
Now, the one thing Jordan was unable to do with the Wizards was elevate the play of his teammates and lead them to the playoffs as the Wizards won just 37 and 38 games, respectively, in MJ's two D.C. seasons. But, one could easily make the case that Jordan's teammates just weren't good enough to be a playoff team, not because Jordan was incapable.
On the other hand, if the Denver Broncos make the playoffs this year - and they probably will barring something catastrophic - it won't be because of Manning and his nine touchdowns and 17 interceptions. It will be because of their defense.
(This is the part where I would make an argument for if the Lakers make the playoffs this year it won't be because of Kobe Bryant, but the Lakers don't have a snowball's chance in hell of making the playoffs in the Western Conference in 2016.)
And in his first season back as a player, Jordan did help increase the Wizards' win total by 14 from the previous year. Ending with 37 wins in 2002 was a surprise and an accomplishment. Ending 2003 with 38 was a letdown.
Of course, Jordan did some bad things too, but those were mostly as an executive. Like trading Rip Hamilton for Jerry Stackhouse and he extracted every bit of confidence that Kwame Brown ever had. However, as an executive, he also got the contracts of Juwan Howard and Mitch Richmond off the books.
But back to the play on the court.
Some would make the argument that Jordan changed his game during his time with the Wizards, but he had already done that in his second stint with the Bulls. He started taking more threes, going to the basket less, passing more and avoided wear and tear on his body.
With the Wizards, he was like the low-calorie version of his second run with the Bulls. He was taking three's, avoiding contact and doing all of that stuff, but age did catch up and affect his numbers.
Still, Jordan shot about 29 percent from three-point range in his final Wizards' season, which is better than his percentage from seven of his Bulls' seasons.
Kobe hasn't really tried to adjust his game at all as he's aged, though he should. Kobe is still the same gun-slinging guard that he was 10 years ago. The difference now is, those shots taken early in the clock over three defenders aren't going in. Instead, most of Kobe's shots are bouncing off the rim.
Looking at those numbers above though, Jordan only attempted 0.7 shots from behind the arc per game in his final Wizards' season. Kobe this season? 7.5 three-point attempts per game, while making just 23 percent of those in eight games.
Michael Jordan may not have been as good with the Wizards as he was with the Bulls, but he was still good enough to be an offensive focal point. It's why he is one of the greatest athletes of all-time, and it's why these other two, in that latter stages of their careers, shouldn't be compared to him.