There is a lot we can say about Michael Jordan as a philanthropist and capitalist.
As for Michael Jordan, the Hall of Fame basketball player, he remains the most iconic figure in all of professional sports. Jordan’s greatness on the court is unparalleled—particularly in his position. He is the standard by which all great NBA players who’ve come after him are measured. We, Joe Public, associate ourselves with such greatness by purchasing and wearing Jordan’s signature sneakers.
It is a status symbol to wear those sneakers.
Another way the common person associates themselves with Jordan’s level of greatness is by declaring the 23rd year of their life as their “Jordan Year.” According to the Urban Dictionary, the Jordan year is supposedly the best year of your life because Jordan, No. 23, was the greatest basketball player.
That must mean that 2023 is a Jordan Year for us all but what does this really mean? Does it mean that 2023 will be the greatest year in the lives of all? Does it guarantee that we, like Jordan, will dedicate our lives to hard work and excellence both professionally and personally?
Or is it an opportunity to attach to an ascribed greatness we don’t believe we are capable of?
One of the great travesties of capitalism is that the idea of “value” or what’s valuable has transformed the way we consider our own value as human beings. Capitalism has encouraged many of us to believe that our value increases as we add “value” to our possessions.
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For example, because I own a car, I have more value or worth versus when I didn’t have a car. With that comes the status attributed to the item purchased. If I own a Ferrari, I have even more value and a higher status than the car owner who doesn’t own a Ferrari.
Michael Jordan is more than simply a man. He’s a brand. Like Pepsi, Jordan is a brand name that he stands behind and guarantees. But unlike Pepsi, or any other brand, we not only trust the Jordan brand but we believe in the aesthetics of the brand. So much so that we believe that this “Jordan” year is or will be greater than any other because the number 23 has something to do with it.
The difference between buying jerseys and sneakers versus believing an idea is that while tangible items serve as outward expressions of an inner belief, philosophy or way of being, an idea cannot be easily stolen. Therefore an idea can take greater root in one’s consciousness than a tangible item that can be taken away by human hands or father time.
You can wear an idea daily without having to upkeep it. It’s an ethos any can live — “Because Jordan was great wearing No. 23, I can be great in this 2023. I can be like Mike.”
The start of 2023, like the start of any year, is an opportunity for new beginnings. It’s an entry point for getting things right for ourselves and others. There is nothing wrong with using the lives and accomplishments of others as motivation. But there is something wrong with failing to see the value of your own life absent the value of an item or idea. Make 2023 the year of “I am enough.”
You are enough to be as great as you want to be, no need for superstitions like the number 23.
Rann Miller is the director of anti-bias and DEI initiatives as well as a high school social studies teacher for a school district located in Southern New Jersey. He’s also a freelance writer and founder of the Urban Education Mixtape, supporting urban educators and parents of students in urban schools. He is the author of the upcoming book, Resistance Stories from Black History for Kids, with an anticipated release date of February 2023. You can follow him on Twitter @UrbanEdDJ .