That has to be what all of them are thinking. David Robinson. John Stockton. Cynthia Cooper. Don Nelson. The Basketball Hall of Fame's Class of 2009 will be announced Monday, and all the other candidates must be thinking: "Why do I have to share what should be the greatest day in my career with him?" None of them will ever say it out loud, but they'd be something other than human if they weren't feeling that way.
AP Photo/Beth A. Keiser
MJ certainly isn't your ordinary Hall of Famer.
That "him" is special, though. In fact, he's more than special; he's beyond that. What that "him" has done is something no one else has done, before or since. He eclipsed damn near everything that everyone else has accomplished in the game. That old saying, "No one remembers who comes in second"? Well, no one remembers anything anyone else did if he or she played or coached during the Era of Jordan.
And that's just a fact we all have to live with. A fact the other players and coaches who will be inducted into the Hall of Fame alongside Michael Jordan in September have to live with. The same fact they've had to live with for most of their careers.
At this point, hasn't it become a little unfair? Unfair to them? Unfair to the game?
It's like, "Damn, can we please catch a break?"
Which is why the Hall of Fame -- if it really cares about players and being true to transcendence of the game -- should induct Jordan alone.
Solo. By himself. With no one else.
That would be the fairest thing to do, for all involved. The distraction of MJ and the overall pageantry surrounding Jordan will be too great for any of the other inductees to enjoy themselves. For the others to get the attention and respect they deserve, Jordan must not be around on their day. Not in the crowd, not in the state, not even passing through. If he is (and he will be), for the others, it'll be like a bride getting upstaged on her wedding day by her own mother.
And it's no one's fault. Not the game's, not the other players', not Mike's. It just so happens that these other Hall of Famers' day fell on "his" day. Jordan might have forced himself to be that great, but he didn't force the world to love him the way it did, which always made it impossible to love anyone else to the same degree when in his presence.
And therein hibernates the other reason MJ should go in solo -- the more important and relevant reason: his basketball beingness. Even if we were to throw the concept of his effect on others out a 25th-floor window of the Royal Suites of the Burj Al Arab in Dubai, it still makes total sense to give Jordan his own day. Of all the athletes who have ever played any sport, he deserves that.
I'm not saying that Jordan is greater than the game of basketball. I'm just being honest about everything he did and how he changed, elevated, sustained, supported and practically financed an entire league. Nothing would be more appropriate. After playing most of his career in a league that paid him way less than market value (Jordan's salary, for all but two seasons of his career, was $4 million or less), it seems like the least that could be done to single him out.
It would be a long-overdue, classy and befitting way to simply say, "Thanks."
But no one is that forward thinking. No one wants to take into total consideration what Jordan has done and what he means to the game. True, Wilt Chamberlain was just as great in his day, and he didn't go into the Hall alone. Same for baseball and Babe Ruth. (And soon enough, golf is going to have this problem with Tiger Woods.) But even among those legends, MJ is different. And that needs to be recognized. Because as much as Jordan's getting inducted to the Hall of Fame is about basketball, his total contribution to the game and to the entire sports world is so much more than that. So much more than any other athlete can claim.
This, we all know. It's just time for those who are about to enshrine him to act like they know it, too.
Scoop Jackson is a columnist for ESPN.com.