It’s been close to a dozen years since Michael Jordan was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Well, inducted for the first time anyway. In addition to being a solo member of the class of 2009, MJ was also inducted the following year when the famed 1992 Dream Team was enshrined.
Thankfully, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird did the talking in 2010 because after Jordan’s embarrassing speech in ’09, things could have taken a bad turn had he gotten his hands on the microphone. Seriously, with all those Dream Team running mates standing behind him, would anyone really have been surprised if he’d have grabbed the mic, turned around, and just started ripping them one by one, saying, “I beat you in this series and you in that series” and so on and so forth? But that’s just a fun, little hypothetical that maybe I’ll dive into at length some other time.
As for the Hall of Fame speech he actually made, that was just an absolute debacle, at least in this writer’s opinion. I could certainly see where some would enjoy it given its overall competitive nature. But in my eyes, it just came across as petty and unnecessary. But at least one good thing came from it and it’s a gift that keeps on giving even all these years later, that, of course, being the famous Michael Jordan crying meme.
Michael Jordan completely embarrassed himself with a large portion of his Hall of Fame speech
Now, I’m not going to sit here and break down all 23-plus minutes (how fitting) of Jordan’s 2009 Hall of Fame speech but we’ll certainly hit the highlights…or the lowlights as the case may be.
For a guy that won six NBA championships with the Chicago Bulls, five MVP awards, and two gold medals, Jordan’s speech almost sounded as if he’d never won anything, didn’t it? And he certainly wasn’t big on saying “thank you” as only seven of those were handed out, one being a sarcastic knock at the Hall of Fame itself for raising ticket prices that he whined about having to pay. Yeah, let’s feel sorry for the guy that was once worth close to two billion dollars.
No, instead of thanking people, he just roasted seemingly everyone he’s ever come into contact with. But roasts are typically funny and Jordan’s speech just wasn’t. Jordan is ruthless and anyone who’s watched The Last Dance knows that. But he had one night to truly be genuine and he blew it.
First, he berated the high school coach that cut him (although that never actually happened as Jordan simply didn’t make varsity as a sophomore) and even flew in the guy that beat him out just to lay into him. He somehow found a way to throw barbs at his former coach at North Carolina, Dean Smith, which just seems impossible, and naturally went on to cut down the architect of the Bulls dynasty, longtime Chicago GM Jerry Krause.
Nobody was safe from Jordan that night. He ripped numerous NBA legends, more of his old coaches, his college roommate, and even his own brothers and kids to a point. The vast majority of the speech was just unbecoming and tactless. But it wasn’t without its nice moments.
There were some nice moments in MJ’s Hall of Fame speech
While the vast majority of Jordan’s Hall of Fame speech was cringeworthy, it certainly wasn’t without its pleasant moments.
His praise of longtime teammate Scottie Pippen was certainly noteworthy as without Pippen, simply put, Jordan doesn’t win those six titles in the Windy City. He mentioned the other honorees that night, David Robinson, John Stockton, Jerry Sloan, and C. Vivian Stringer, and had some nice things to say about them.
Then, of course, he mentioned his parents. He spoke on how much his father is still with him and truly complimented his mother, saying she’s always been the one that’s kept him focused on the good things in life.
But outside of that, his most genuine remarks of the evening came right at the end of his speech, where he actually let himself be vulnerable, even if only for a minute. Those final moments were essentially his love letter to the game of basketball as he spoke about what the sport truly means to him and how it gave him a life he never could have imagined. It was that final minute that the other 22 should have and could have been.
But at least we got the crying meme out of that speech, right?
The ‘Crying Jordan’ meme took the internet by storm a few years later
Throughout Jordan’s Hall of Fame speech, he shed quite a few tears and frequently paused to collect himself. During one of his emotional moments, Associated Press photographer Stephan Savoia snapped a shot that would eventually become one of the most iconic memes of all time.
In April 2012, right near the end of a dismal 7-59 season for Jordan’s then-Charlotte Bobcats, Savoia’s image of a teary-eyed Jordan was submitted to the meme generator MemeCrunch with a caption that read, “Why did I buy the Bobcats?” Titled “Sad Jordan,” this is believed to be the first instance in which the picture was used to create a meme but it certainly wouldn’t be the last.
Over the next few years, what’s now known as the “Crying Jordan” meme exploded and became a phenomenon on its own. There’s actually even a “Crying Jordan” Twitter page that has close to 54,000 followers. President Barack Obama even referenced it when awarding MJ the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2016 and Jordan himself even referenced it during his emotional speech at Kobe Bryant‘s public memorial last February.
Jordan will get another chance to speak about Bryant when he returns to the Hall of Fame stage on Saturday night to induct Kobe as part of the class of 2020.