Single page view By Jason Whitlock
Special to Page 2

One day soon, one of the cable TV networks is going to put together a documentary examining the lives of the three most famous Mikes of the last half century. And the examination will reveal some great life lessons about celebrity, wealth and parenting.

Oh yes, there's definitely a lesson to be learned from an analysis and comparison of the lives of Iron Mike, Air Jordan and The King of Pop.

Michael Jackson
The King of Pop, looking as scary as ever.

At one time, Michael Jackson, Michael Jordan and Mike Tyson were three of the richest and most celebrated entertainers in the world. They were African-American royalty whose stardom transcended race.

You were just as likely to see the three Mikes on the cover of Rolling Stone or Sports Illustrated as you were Jet or Ebony.

Jackson owned the early 1980s; his 1982 album "Thriller" catapulted him to Elvis stature. Tyson owned the late 1980s, winning the then-coveted crown of heavyweight champion of the world at the record age of 20 years and four months. And Jordan owned the 1990s, leading the Chicago Bulls to six NBA titles.

From about 1987 through 1990 – my last three years of college – you could easily argue that Jackson, Tyson and Jordan were the three most famous men in the world. Tyson was knocking out opponents at record speeds. Jackson's "Bad" album produced six No. 1 singles. And Jordan won his first MVP award and two slam-dunk titles.

Fast-forward 15 years, to June 2005: A jury is expected to reach a verdict any day now on the child molestation charges Jackson faces. This weekend, Tyson is going to take one final fling at restoring some life and credibility to his boxing career when he takes on yet another tomato can. And Jordan has momentarily faded into the shadows, allowing Charles Barkley and Magic Johnson to serve as the NBA's top ambassadors.

I have to admit, I was never much of a Jordan fan. I called him Hot Air. It has always bothered me that he received more acclaim than Magic Johnson, my favorite athlete of all time. My dislike of Jordan is pure jealousy. He outshined Magic, and Jordan's Bulls tortured my Indiana Pacers. I guess I bring this up to say that if I wanted to see any of the Mikes disgraced, it would be Hot Air.

I've always been a huge Jackson fan. He grew up poor in my hometown (Gary, Ind.), and I've always been fascinated by Tyson's rags-to-riches story.

I love the underdog long shot. It just seems to me that everything was handed to Jordan, including the 1982 NCAA championship by Fred Brown and the title of greatest player of all time by David Stern and NBA marketers.

But that doesn't explain why Jordan is still a cultural force with his reputation intact, and Jackson and Tyson have spent the past 15 years slipping deeper and deeper into an abyss.

So what happened? What can we learn from the fact that two of the three most famous Mikes in the history of mankind found themselves disgraced and fighting for their survival just 15 years after reaching the pinnacle of their success?

You know what they would say inside Indianapolis' world-famous Masterpiece Lounge, the little, ghetto, working-class watering hole my father has owned and operated for about 15 years?


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