Dax-Devlon Ross is a writer I wish I had known about before today. On his website, he writes about the magical power of a Michael Jordan video to a latch-key kid:
What really made Come Fly With Me so special and put it outside of a simple highlight reel or sports video was that it had a story, an arc. Michael Jordan had experienced adversity. He’d been cut from his high school basketball team in tenth grade. No one had expected him to be a star at North Carolina. He’d broken his leg his second year in the league. There were still many who doubted he’d ever win a championship. It was a story straight out of Joseph Campbell’s Hero With a Thousand Faces via Luke Skywalker. That, I believe, is what we were all relating to beneath the surface of our collective awe. The greatest player to ever lace up a pair of basketball shoes (as far as we knew or cared to know at least) wasn’t the product of mere divine ordination. He was born poor in Brooklyn, arisen from a modest background in North Carolina, played on a dusty backyard hoop as a teenager and experienced life’s struggles as we all have. What we didn’t realize, or even care about, was that as dark as he was, as definitively black as he was, MJ belonged to America first and foremost. Being that exceptional made him part of America’s Master Narrative, the canon of greatness usually reserved for white men. We naively thought we could be him if we just practiced really hard... and had a growth spurt!!! It never crossed our minds that we were being sold a false bill of goods until we were introduced to Arthur Agee and William Gates four years later in Hoop Dreams. Watching their dreams fade faster than MJ’s hairline made us realize how dangerous all of those hours of dreaming we could one day fly like Mike would be if we didn’t pack a parachute.