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Hall of Fame Day

10/20/2009

Do you believe in Air? That's the question of the day.

And, guess what -- everyone does. Literally, everyone. With a big "A" or a little "a" on "air" it's a basic part of being alive.

Michael Jordan's career has been remembered every which way (by the NBA, by the Bulls, by the media, by Hollywood, by North Carolina ... even the Miami Heat, a team for which he never played, has retired his number). But making a big stink about people who used to play in the NBA is really the job of the Basketball Hall of Fame, and now -- five years after he hung up his sneakers -- it's the Hall's turn to salute Jordan, as well as C. Vivian Stringer, David Robinson, Jerry Sloan and John Stockton.

There is a dizzying array of accompanying commentary, which Matt McHale has tidily assembled into an ever-growing list of links.

I'll share one quick story, from the legendary Dean Smith, who was, of course, Michael Jordan's coach for three years at the University of North Carolina. In his book "The Carolina Way," Smith drops one of the great tributes to Jordan's magical powers into the middle of a mini-lecture about the perils of showboating.

Jordan clearly made even Smith, the high priest of understated class, see the merits in a certain kind of flash:

Maybe it was old-fashioned on my part, but I detested showboating. I didn't want a fancy pass when a simple one would work as well or better. I loved for our team to dunk, but I didn't want our team to stand around and scowl at opponents after doing so. I never thought it was cool to show up an opponent on purpose. Now, if they were unduly provoked -- and that happened sometimes -- that could be a different story. One of Michael Jordan's dunks against Maryland might be an example. Michael felt an injustice had been done against him by a Maryland player, so late in a game at College Park, he felt payback was justified. If you didn't see this particular dunk, I'm sorry I can't describe it to you. People still talk about it when Michael's UNC career is recalled. I believe it was the night that windmill dunk became part of basketball's lexicon.

(Video that could be of that dunk.)

Then, after one of the the most convincing testimonials ever for whatever it is Michael Jordan does in the air, Smith goes right back to making his point about how there's no point in being showy. The message may be lost a little. Jordan may have done it primarily with his play (expect a discussion of some of those later today), but he was surely the best ever at showing up opponents, and as such is the primary muse to many a showboater.

Meanwhile, I'm on my way to Springfield (another question for me today, besides Do You Believe In Air: Do You Believe in Amtrak?) for a day of multi-faceted Hall of Fame coverage, culminating in a special liveblogging (complete with input from several people, including you) of this evening's proceedings. Stick around.