The Lockout is over, but sports fans aren't exactly parading in the streets, at least not in the way they did for the NFL, which should tell everyone something about the NBA: even when it's doing well, it's not like it used to be. Something has been severed between fans over the age of say 30 and the League, and that severance goes back to Michael Jordan's retirement and the contemporary players chasing after his legacy. And with Jordan, as an owner, sitting opposite a younger generation during the Lockout, his competitive nature took on a new edge, that of a reluctantly bitter father. Some will say his recent behavior tarnished his legacy; personally, I think he is what he always was. You be the judge:
Mr. Jordan bit down on the end of his cigar, bits of brown leaf and spit slipping out his teeth and onto his lips, before fluttering to the floor. “When I’m done here.” He then peeked at his cards and raised the bet.
“Yes, sir. . .” the guard trembled, the rush of blood invading all the white that was left in his face. “. . . but this man is awfully anxious to see you.”
“Then he can wait ‘til I finish this hand.”
“Yes, sir.” The guard scurried out of the doorway like a mouse from a broom handle.
“Dumb cracker,” hissed Jordan through his cigar, causing the tip to glow orange.
The gruff looking man, in need of a haircut, beside Jordan just laughed; an empty, fake sort of laugh that would make one wonder whether the man even knew what funny was. “Yeah, boss.”
“Awww, shit,” said Jordan standing up from the table, “I ain’t got shit anyway. Oak, pay me out this hand, and if you take extra, I’ll cut even you.”
The man in need of a haircut nodded and then turned to the other two men at the table, one with a long Roman nose and the other one bald, “You heard that, Ronnie and Scott, Mr. Jordan’s out,” which they knew meant that they were supposed to lose on purpose to Mr. Oakley, who would later split his earning with Mr. Jordan.
Jordan tossed the still lit butt of his cigar into a waste basket, causing a flame to smolder in the paper remnants before going as still as it was before. Mr. Jordan had always lived this way, giving fire where there was none and leaving what had been nothing with nothing once again. It was his way of doing business; his way of existing; his way of living; his way of reckoning that he was better than all these cons, inside of a prison, reminiscing about how things used to be.
On the way down the hall to the visiting room, Mr. Jordan stopped and checked in his reflection in the metal of a water fountain. He rubbed his head, shaven that morning, and pulled on his nose. Then he bent down for a drink, baptizing his own reflection in the cool water, as he lapped it with his long, pink tongue. Then he prowled down the rest of the hallway. This was his domain; his savannah.
When he came to the visiting room, it was empty. A gray counter split the room, and the counter was split by a pane of plexiglass that ran the length of the room. The counter was then divided up by three pieces of plexiglass that cut across the width of the counter, making four places for prisoners to meet their loved ones. Each spot had a stool and a phone receiver on each side. Mr. Jordan took at seat at one of the middle stools and waited. He could see the glint of his earring in the plexiglass like some star that refused to die.
A green light went on by the door, and as it opened, a buzzer sounded. In walked a slim looking fellow whose gait reminded Jordan of his younger self. The younger man’s hairline set back on his forehead like it was receding, but it wasn’t; and his lips stuck out like he was pouting over the hand history had dealt him, like he was upset that he would never receive credit for being the first man to ever live, despite the fact that billions came before him and billions would come after him. The younger man sat down at the table and took in the moment, staring at the man he’d been studying from a far his whole life--now just a few feet away. If not for the plexiglass, he could reach out and touch the man.
Mr. Jordan looked impatient; he had known this visit would come; and he already wanted it over and done with; and he grimaced like a man eating leftovers that don't taste good.
The two men reached for the telephone receivers simultaneously, in a manner that made it impossible to tell which was the shadow and which was the body.
“I can’t believe I’m here. . . . I’ve got so much to ask you. . . so much to say,” started Kobe.
Mr. Jordan just stared through the glass, his dark eyes still and frozen--he was a viper on display at the zoo--and he spoke in a fanged whisper.
“Kobe,” he waited for the younger version of himself to look him in the eye, “you know I’m not your father.”
Kobe let a out a hollow yeah and dropped the receiver.