His airness reaches 52 years, not points

By Copy Chief

Minnesota Timberwolves guard Zach LaVine wore a “Space Jam” jersey during this year’s NBA dunk competition, but should have carried a sign around that said “Happy Birthday” to the real dunk champion and the man who wore the jersey best, especially in the iconic 1996 Looney Toons-starring film—Chicago hero Michael Jordan.

His airness—the man who jumped from the free throw line, double-clutched a ball palmed in his right hand and slammed it into the basket to win the dunk competition in 1988—turned 52 on Feb. 17 this year.

The class of 2009 Hall of Famer who brought six championships via two three-peats is considered one of the greatest, if not the greatest of all time.

Sir Altitude racked up a Finals MVP award every year he won a championship—aka every year that he competed.

He has enough awards and accolades to cover a court from baseline to baseline: He is a five-time league MVP, 11-time All-Star and the Chicago Bulls’ all-time leading scorer, but that’s not even the half of it. With such an inimitable track record, who wouldn’t want to be like Mike?

Forget about the fact that he took a year off to play baseball or that he retired again before coming back to dominate the league once more. The 6-foot-6 guard and small forward boasts an impressive 32,292 points on nearly 50 percent shooting—just another reason his name has gone down in history.

His grace with the ball and ability to shoot while falling after practically years of hang time showed how advanced his game was compared to other players in his era.

Regardless of whether people can agree on if he is better than Magic Johnson, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James or any other professional basketball player, Air Jordan’s game is elite.

However, celebrating a member of basketball royalty’s birthday is about more than regarding Jordan as one of the greatest.

He is an icon. Growing up, he was the first player who non-basketball fans I spoke to could name because he was a celebrity in tons of advertisements, but more importantly because he changed the game for basketball fans everywhere who were able to see him play. He created a legacy for himself and proved time and time again that he was the best man on the court with the ball. He inspired players to learn and practice his moves on the court, and he ignited a fire in the hearts of Bulls fans that still burns today.

Whether it’s hometown-hero Derrick Rose, who brings life to the United Center every time he beats a defender to the basket, or rising star Jimmy Butler, who competes hard on the court while being a role model off the court, Bulls fans know that any great player to emerge from the team will be compared to the man whose No. 23 jersey hangs retired at the UC.

It’s like Magic Johnson once said: “There’s Michael Jordan and then there is the rest of us.”