It might be the only good meme: Crying Jordan, a photo of a weepy Michael Jordan, seemingly custom-made for the internet to superimpose his face onto the head of anyone who just fucked up. It’s beautifully simple, it’s viscerally funny, and by this point a large amount of the humor comes from expecting it to appear—and seeing how it’s applied. But where did it come from?
The Wall Street Journal dips into the history of the meme, starting with the photo itself: taken by Associated Press photographer Stephan Savoia in 2009, as Jordan took the lectern for his Hall of Fame enshrinement speech. Jordan was moved by the prolonged ovation—you can see Crying MJ in motion here, starting about 40 seconds into the video. Savoia had no idea his photo went viral until the WSJ contacted him this week.
The meme started surfacing last spring, according to Google trends, but has skyrocketed in popularity since September.
Jordan still hasn’t commented on the photo’s popularity, but we know his sons are aware of it, and his lawyers are too. But the notoriously litigious Jordan brand isn’t going to go after this one for now: “at this time,” a Jordan spokesperson said, “we have taken no legal action.”
So meme away until it’s driven into the ground and we have to move on to, like, Pensive Shaq or something. Here’s your commemorative full-res Crying MJ photo: