Been a very interesting couple of days, so I’m a bit torn on what to write about. Soooo…
I posted on Facebook a couple of days ago asking the question, “Who is the bigger icon? Muhammad Ali or Michael Jordan.”
I was honestly surprised at the answer I received. Most people that I polled (granted, small sample) said Ali. Let’s look at it.
• Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Class of 2009
• 6-time NBA Champion: 1991-93, 1996-98 (all with Chicago Bulls)
• 6-time NBA Finals Most Valuable Player: 1991-93, 1996-98
• Selected in 1996 as one of the “50 Greatest Players in NBA History”
• 2x Olympic gold medals: 1984, 1992
• NCAA National Championship – University of North Carolina: 1981-82
• Naismith College Player of the Year: 1984
• John R. Wooden Award: 1984
• Adolph Rupp Trophy: 1984
Heck of a list isn’t it?
Then add to it how he changed the way NBA basketball was played and refereed. The “hand check” rule allowed for more movement and spacing which helped guys drive to the basket a bit easier and made it a much faster game.
Then, there’s the Michael Jordan brand. There are still lines outside of shoe stores for the new pair of Jordans, and he hasn’t played basketball since 2003!!! Also, he really was the first athlete to “brand” himself as a business entity, and no other athlete has done it as well since.
He’s accomplished quite a bit, and he’s only 50.
• Six-time Kentucky State Golden Gloves Champion
• 1959 Chicago Golden Gloves Tournament of Champions Light Heavyweight Champion 1959
• Intercity Golden Gloves Light Heavyweight Champion 1960
• Chicago Golden Gloves Tournament of Champions Heavyweight Champion
• 1960 Intercity Golden Gloves Heavyweight Champion
• 1959 and 1960 National AAU Light Heavyweight Champion
• 1960 Olympic Light Heavyweight Gold Medalist in Rome, Italy
• The first and only three-time lineal World Heavyweight Champion
• The first World Heavyweight Champion to come back from retirement and regain the title
• Won twenty-two World Heavyweight Championship fights and made 19 successful defenses
Awards and Recognition
• Named The Ring Fighter of the Year for 1963, 1972, 1974, 1975 and 1978
• Named Boxing Writers Association of America Fighter of the Year for 1965, 1974 and 1975
• Proclaimed “Fighter of the Decade” (1970s) by The Ring
• Named the greatest heavyweight of all-time by The Ring in 1998
• Named the greatest heavyweight of the 20th century by the Associated Press
• Named “Athlete of the Century” by GQ magazine
• Named “Sportsman of the 20th Century” by Sports Illustrated
• Inducted into the Florida Boxing Hall of Fame in 2010
Ali also changed the history of American sports by orchestrating the very first prize fight purse of $1,000,000. All his brash talking and insulting of Joe Frazier before their first fight had people who really wanted to see him win or who really wanted to see him lose, which he did.
What puts Ali over the top for me are all his humanitarian acts throughout his life. He gave up the sport he loved for what he believed in by refusing to be drafted for the Army, which was also a VERY unpopular decision.
It’s very close in some respects. However, here’s the final comparison.
Michael Jordan: Space Jam
Muhammad Ali: WrestleMania I
Ali by a landslide.