HOUSTON (AP) - Michael Jordan turned 50 on Sunday, giving this year’s All-Stars a chance to reflect on his illustrious career and how much he still means to the sport.
In a weekend filled with the NBA’s greatest players, Jordan was the topic no one could stop talking about. Though he hasn’t played since the 2002-03 season, Jordan’s influence still permeates the league and its players.
“Every kid that wanted to play basketball, that could play, that couldn’t play, you tried to emulate Michael Jordan,” Heat star Dwyane Wade said. “That’s why there will never be another one of him. He the first of his kind. Everything he did was groundbreaking. He did it with so much flare and so much pizazz that even today people are still trying to be like Mike.”
Jordan won six titles and five MVP awards during a career spent mostly with the Bulls that began in 1984.
“Be Like Mike” was more than a marketing campaign. It was a dream for many of today’s players.
“He’s amazing,” Howard said. “He’s one of the reasons why we played basketball. He inspired us to do great things. I hear his voice sometimes on commercials, it makes you want to get out there and try to do something.”
Jordan retired twice before finally leaving the game for good at age 39. Some people wondered this weekend if he could still play in the NBA, despite reaching the age where he qualifies for an AARP card.
“Kind of look back at all the things he did, so many years ago in the NBA that still lives on today,” Wade said. “What he’s been able to do to stay this relevant, in this role, the way he has, is phenomenal.”
Though he isn’t seen often, Jordan is never far from the game. He is close to a group of players through his Jordan Brand apparel and as the owner of the Charlotte Bobcats. He ignited one of the debates of the weekend when he told NBA TV he would chose Bryant over James based on the number of championships each has won.
“If you had to pick between the two, that would be a tough choice, but five beats one every time I look at it, and not that (James) won’t get five, he may get more than that, but five is bigger than one,” Jordan said in the interview, which airs Monday night.
Carmelo Anthony of the New York Knicks counts Jordan as one of the most influential in his decision to play basketball.
“He changed the game, transcended the game,” Anthony said. “He changed the way people coached the game from a mental aspect. From a training aspect, how you approach that, he changed that. So for me as a kid to see that and see somebody go through that and succeed, that was motivation.”