Michael Jordan’s greatness was never just the wins or the stats. It was not even how high he jumped or how flashy his dunks were. Michael Jordan is great because he turned himself into a brand, something never done before. Jordan opened the doors for athletes to make more than their playing contracts and for some, even earning money years after retirement.
Jordan made it cool to promote underwear, drink Gatorade, and have your own shoe that children everywhere could buy and try to imitate him on playgrounds around the world.
There are three main ingredients an athlete needs to ascend to Jordan’s level. First, you have to perform and win at the peak of your playing career. Secondly, you need to have a personality that draws in the audience on and off the field. And lastly, you must inspire people around the world to desire to imitate everything you do.
Many people point to Kobe as the next Jordan because of his hunger to win and multiple championships. Yet for me that is a reach. There is no way that the Kobe brand is as recognizable as Jordan’s. Other notable current NBA players that need to be mentioned are D. Rose, Dwight Howard, and Lebron James. Rose may have won over Chicago and many NBA fans, but when your commercials are better when you don’t open your mouth, the message is clear. You cannot teach charisma. Sadly ithe same goes for Lebron James. Even at the height of his popularity, his best commercials were in puppet form, and after the “Decision” came a sorry campaign by Nike trying to take a jab at his critics. Dwight has the personality, the swagger, and the look. But the fact is that he lacks that winning hunger and suffers from the Shaq dilemma (big men can’t sell shoes). I do have to give props to LBJ and Dwight for their remake of the McDonalds commercial. Sadly, most college students now are too young to remember the originals with Jordan, Bird, and fan favorite Charles Barkley (can I play?)
Peyton Manning might be the closest we have to Jordan right now. Peyton is great on the field (one of the top quarterbacks of all time) and has one of the best personalities for advertisements. Peyton has used his goofy looks to his advantage to create a unique TV persona. But Peyton still lacks one thing. Jordan had millions of kids who wanted to be like Mike. In Peyton’s case, people think he’s amazing and funny, but you don’t see kids imitating his throws and wanting to buy his shoes.
This brings me to my rising star, Blake Griffin. Griffin has the potential to become great on the court and has already proven to be able to get endorsements. He has a worthy work ethic, and a strong fan base proven from vote getting competitions like the All-Star slam dunk contest. And Griffin’s TV personality has only improved over time. Blake’s got my vote, but don’t count out the dark horse of Durant’s Backpack that seems to be everywhere these days (when is Jansport going to sponsor him?)
How can you not love this guy after watching that!?!