Michael Jordan selection of David Thompson to present him for his Hall of Fame enshrinement brings a beautiful strand of symmetry to the proceedings. As much as he changed the game, Jordan realized that he was a product of those who came before him.
Thompson will serve as a living, breathing origin of the high-flying signature that Jordan picked up in mid-stroke and finished with a flourish. But as impressed as I am with Jordan's presenter, I'm a little worried about the others.
|We'll see if Larry Brown and Isiah Thomas can play nice and if Charles Barkley can play it straight. (Getty Images)|
Has a Hall of Fame in any sport ever had two presenters who hated each other more?
All I can say is, thank God for No. 23. Because without Jordan's mountainous presence looming over the evening, I'm afraid the wattage generated by Charles, Larry and Isiah would be inappropriately bright. Even with M.J. in the house, the Axis of Ego might find a way to make it about them.
Barkley's gift for gab is greatly appreciated in many venues, but not this one -- and especially not in his role of presenting one of the truly ego-less coaches ever to roam an NBA sideline. Sloan doesn't need a presenter, much less one who is fully capable of turning the event into his own personal mix tape of inappropriate jokes. The only worse choice would've been Phil Jackson, who might've been tempted to show up with his "X" cap to signify his 10 titles to Sloan's none.
Speaking of chronic insubordination, Brown earned the honor of presenting Robinson by virtue of being a Hall of Famer himself -- one of the criteria -- and serving as the Admiral's first NBA coach. There is no doubting Brown's status as a coaching luminary. I just question the wisdom of putting him in the same room with Thomas, with whom he infamously feuded when they were both employed by the Knicks. Only Jordan -- who blocked the Knicks from numerous NBA titles during the '90s -- and Bernard Madoff have stolen more from New Yorkers than Larry and Isiah.
Couldn't the Hall of Fame get Anucha Browne Sanders involved, just to complete the dysfunction?
The funny thing is, Barkley and Brown would've wound up in Springfield this weekend one way or another, because either one would've been a credible presenter for Jordan. Barkley, of course, is M.J.'s longtime golfing and gambling partner, while Brown could've used the opportunity of presenting Jordan as a way to lobby one last time for the North Carolina job. To do that, Brown could've become the first presenter in Hall of Fame history to have his own presenter: Dean Smith.
One thing that puzzles me: Which guy is Isiah going to dislike more at the ceremony? Brown or Jordan? Either way, I'm going to want a full accounting -- once and for all -- of Isiah's famous-but-often-denied freezeout of Jordan at the 1985 All-Star Game. That would be a lot more interesting than listening to Isiah talk about how he's building a champion at Florida International.
The pitfalls here are numerous. I just hope that George Gervin (Robinson's co-presenter) and John Chaney (presenting C. Vivian Stringer) find a way to get a few words in. Together, they might have to save the ceremony from itself.
This class is special -- too special to have the spotlight and applause focused on anyone but the inductees. It's as good as it gets when you consider Jordan's legacy and Sloan's selfless contributions as a teacher and ambassador for what coaching should be. Robinson's 1,000-watt smile and résumé, not to mention Stockton's throwback point-guard play and ruggedness, could've stood on their own merits at any other induction. On Friday night, they'll take a back seat to Jordan. I just don't want them outshined by anybody else.
So please, dignified, decorated and dysfunctional presenters: Play nice. Don't let your egos get in the way. And repeat after me: It's not about you.