Patient: Like Mike
Profile: Deceitful modern fairy tale about orphan boy who finds family, victory and happiness through a pair of enchanted basketball sneakers ostensibly worn by the game's "greatest" player, Michael Jordan. A serviceable, if false, film that is sometimes charming but always, like its namesake, moving product. Think Damn Yankees meets The Man In the Gray Flannel Suit meets Annie meets The Natural meets Crap With a Side of Shit: The QVC Story.
Symptoms: This is an okay, if predictable, movie—spunky orphan and selfish superstar find each other and family; Crispin Glover as a creepy insane guy—one the Doctor would not bother with if it weren't aimed at kids. The doctor doesn't believe in lying to children. Bend them to your will through the manipulation of shiny objects? Sure. But lie? Like Mike is based on the Big Lie that Jordan is basketball's greatest and that his "greatness" somehow heals broken lives. Jordan is not the greatest. He won his six championships in the talent-starved '90s, when the great players of the NBA's great era, the '80s—Magic, Bird, Isiah and my colleague Dr. J—had either retired or were running on old legs. Jordan played six seasons in the '80s and won as many NBA championships as Dominique Wilkins, Charles Barkley and me. The "greatest" lie is propagated because Jordan is without peer when it comes to selling crap—the movie is named after a Gatorade commercial. He's Joan Rivers without the wit or decomposition. But do we want kids aspiring to be a man who stands for nothing; who said nothing about Nike's questionable Asian labor practices; who, during a close North Carolina Senatorial race, refused to endorse African-American candidate Harvey Gant even after eventual victor Jesse Helms played the race card? Do we want our kids to be like him, concerned not with the world but only with its logos, labels and payouts? Is that how we want our kids to turn out? Wait, they already did.
Diagnosis: "Magical" Jordan? Why not a sequel about Ron Popeil's enchanted meat dryer?
Prescription: The solution is simple. Keep everything the same and substitute in the truly greatest player, the player who led his teams to five championships in the '80s: Magic Johnson. Here's the beauty: you don't have to change the "MJ" on the sneakers, and Magic is someone you can proudly present to kids as a role model. Someone who has created jobs and hope by starting businesses in the inner city. He has talked about throwing his hat into the political ring. A man who believes in taking part, not cashing out. A man who has done as much as anyone to raise awareness for AIDS. A man of higher purpose. You kids who didn't see him play may remember him from his sports clubs commercials or his soft drink commercials or his NBA Entertainment commercials or his ill-fated talk show commercials or his . . . ah, crap.
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