His Airness. MJ. Honorary Looney Tune.
Michael Jordan goes by many names, but one constant among his various personae is his singular effect on the game of basketball - many would argue Jordan is in fact the game's greatest-ever player.
Whether you care to debate in favor of Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, or someone else is a discussion for another time. But today the spotlight shines on the six-time NBA champion and longtime Chicago Bull: Jordan celebrates his 50th birthday Sunday, offering us the opportunity to look back at a career and life full of record-breaking achievements.
Compared to some of the gaudy achievements put up by his forebearers in an NBA that was less athletic and not as sophisticated, some of Jordan's individual numbers may not stand up against the likes of Chamberlain's 50.4 points-per-game average in the 1961-62 season or his famed 100-point game.
Yet despite the rigors of the modern game, Jordan still could not be denied his place in history. Perhaps his two most impressive records are his highest career scoring averages: 30.1 points-per-game for his regular season career and 33.4 a pop in the postseason. In a career that spanned 15 seasons played and 13 trips to the playoffs, to reach and retain those heights is simply impeccable.
Not surprisingly with his scoring prowess, Jordan also owns the record for the most seasons to lead the NBA in scoring at 10 and still holds the mark for the highest point total in a single playoff game, lighting up the Boston Celtics for 63 points in just his second season.
And don't forget about Jordan's defense. He's tied for the most career appearances on the NBA's All-Defensive First Team and was the first player ever to record 200 steals and 100 blocks in a season.
With a player like Jordan in his prime on the roster, a team is bound to do pretty well. Such was the case with the Chicago Bulls of the late 1980s and throughout the '90s.
The most impressive Bulls record - and maybe one that'll never be broken - is their 72 wins in the 1995-96 season, the most regular-season NBA victories ever. Some teams have come close. Others have boasted they could win 72 themselves. And still, Jordan's Bulls stand alone atop that mountain.
Jordan, of course, led the Bulls to six NBA titles, the definition of a modern-day dynasty. And, wouldn't you know it, MJ stood at the center of them all, earning records for the most total(6) and consecutive (3) NBA Finals MVP awards.
Let's also not forget Jordan's success with both club and country. He joined fellow legendary running mate Scottie Pippen as the first players to win an NBA title and Olympic gold medal in the same year, fueling the once-in-a-lifetime Dream Team at Barcelona 1992.
OFF THE COURT
In the end, many players could stake a claim to at least sitting at the same table of greatness with Jordan. Even current superstars like Kobe Bryant and LeBron James are nudging their way into the all-time conversation.
But Jordan still stands alone in the legacy and larger-than-life presence he manifested away from the game.
There were the movies, like "Space Jam," still the highest-grossing basketball film of all-time at more than $230 million globally. The iconic commercials. And, of course, the shoes. With his Nike signature Air Jordan sneaker line alone, Jordan cultivated a worldwide following and inspired millions of fans - like this record-breaking one who owns a pair of every Air Jordan and coincidentally owns an awesomely appropriate name:
So happy birthday to the one and only Michael Jordan! And if yet another comeback attempt happens, we'll be here waiting to rewrite the record books again.