Adam Silver might be receiving a call from somebody very soon. It’ll be a friendly call from one of the NBA team owners saying that he will be in New York for a visit shortly. He will suggest that the two of them play golf soon, and as soon as that request is made, the commissioner should turn his phone off immediately.
That hypothetical call would be from Michael Jordan. The entire purpose of the invitation would be to get as close to the feeling of scoring 60 points on a foe as possible by destroying Silver on the golf course.
The NBA will have some new awards at the end of the conference finals. There will no longer be only an NBA Finals MVP, but there will be conference final-round MVPs as well. The NBA announced on Twitter that because of their “individual and team success in the 1980s” that set the modern NBA in motion, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird will get the naming honors, Magic for the West MVP, Larry Legend for the East’s.
The winning teams from the East and the West will still be presented a trophy, but now, just like the AFC and NFC Championship in the NFL, the trophies will be named after league luminaries. The Western Conference Championship trophy is now named after Oscar Robertson — in case you were wondering how few teams there were in the NBA in the 1960s the Western Conference trophy is named after a player who spent most of his career in Cincinnati — and the Eastern Conference Championship trophy will be named after Bob Cousy. Somewhere Chris “Mad Dog” Russo is shedding tears while watching highlights of Cousy being the only player on the court capable of dribbling between his legs on 16mm film.
These are ideal people to honor. Unlike the NFL naming its conference championship trophies after team owners (Bears founder George Halas for the NFC and Chiefs founder Lamar Hunt for the AFC), the NBA is about the players, and these four were extremely important in building the league. Cousy was the first perimeter superstar, and Robertson was the first big guard with all of the ball handling, playmaking, and shooting skills. They showed that the game is much more than jump hooks by a team’s tallest player.
Then there came Magic and Larry. An NBA that was struggling — and cocaine wasn’t the only problem — they took the league from tape-delayed championship rounds, to some of the most thrilling athletic competitions that attracted fans from around the world. They saved a major American sports league, and it’s fitting that the conference championship MVP trophies have their names on it.
But don’t think for one second that Jordan isn’t taking that personally. The man that made up LaBradford Smith mocking him after a game for motivation during the regular season surely feels left out. He may be too busy with his NASCAR team and finding a new coach for the Charlotte Hornets to dwell on it, but when he sees that Eastern Conference Finals MVP trophy presented to someone he’s going to pray for one more leap so he can track Bird down in Indiana and dunk on his head.
Jordan loves to defer to the elders when he brushes off people saying that he is the best ever, but he played against Johnson and Bird for nearly half of his career. He believes that he’s better than them, and while he likely cares very little about a trophy being named after him, he was probably pissed the moment he found out who the trophies were named after. Maybe he knew during All-Star Weekend and that’s why he challenged Johnson to a game of one-on-one.
So Commissioner Silver, you can’t play golf with Jordan until you decide to name the regular season MVP after him, or make some other award up that he thinks is better than the ones that you named after Bird and Johnson. If not, he’s going to treat you on the golf course like it’s Game 2 of the 1990 NBA first round. There’s not any amount of money in the world you can wager that will motivate him like you naming something after Bird and Magic instead of him, but he will smile wider when taking your cash after he shoots the round of his life.