Tuesday, April 1, 2008
#23 Michael Jordan a.k.a. Qiaodan
In Asia, Jordan is God. If Confucius were to rise from the dead one Sunday and Jordan arrived in Beijing at the same time, it wouldn't even be close, everyone would go see Jordan. His arrival in China was religious. People cried, gasped, fainted, had seizures, you name it, they did it. There is no one bigger than Jordan. Yao's not even close. We love Yao, but Jordan transcends human limitations and literally defies gravity. His nickname in China? Mid-Air Flying Man a.k.a. Kong Zhong Fei Ren (check my pinying please).
Not only is Jordan physically God-like, but mentally as well. He's a tireless worker, silent assassin (really didn't talk much or give sound bites), natural born leader, and cold blooded when he needs to be: sayonara Bryon Russell. Combine his ability to fly like crouching tigers with his perfect mental make-up and you have the role model of all role models for Asia.
I don't need to re-hash his career, you all know he was arguably the most dominant athlete of all-time in the perfect era (rise of cable media, read Eric La Faber's Michael Jordan and the New Global Capitalism). But the way he did it means even more to Asians. We're not the most idealistic people and the emphasis on winning can be stifling, but these tendencies fed into Jordan's popularity. He wanted to win at all costs, never stopped competing (gambling, golf, women), and did it with an iron fist. In recent eras, Asians, especially Chinese have become more idealistic (after Cultural Revolution and Mao), but it's hard to shake old tendencies especially when Jordan shows there's gold at the end of the rainbow if you follow it.
His story of being cut as a high schooler who never lost again is legendary. It borders on Mulan-type epic proportions because it shows perseverance, sacrifice, and dedication to a goal. But, unlike Mulan or any other person, Jordan combined the perfect work ethic and mental make-up with genetic supremacy. He is, in Asian eyes, perfect. #23 with a bullet, "MJ, hem Jay, fade away perfect!"