The sports media has decided to dedicate a whole weekend to the coverage of Michael Jordan’s 50th birthday. I’ve seen segments and articles regarding players’ birthdays before, but the coverage of Jordan’s 50th has almost turned it into a holiday.
Most sportswriters consider him the greatest player in NBA history, so it may be fitting that he should receive that type of coverage. But Feb. 17 has already been claimed. MJ is going to have to share some of the cake with perhaps the greatest player in NFL history: Jim Brown.
Jim Brown turned 77 on Sunday, 46 years after his retirement from the NFL, back when Michael Jordan was learning how to spell what would eventually be his revered name. In that nine-year football career, Brown displayed one of the most consistent performances by any player to carry a football.
Drafted in the first round of the 1956 NFL Draft by the Cleveland Browns, Brown would go on to earn eight rushing titles, eight All-Pro selections, nine Pro Bowl selections, three NFL MVP awards, and led Cleveland to an NFL Championship in 1964. He would leave the game at the age of 29, seemingly at the top of his game. Brown rushed for 1,544 yards and 17 touchdowns in his final season in 1965.
Brown’s reasons to retire included his aspiration to become a movie actor. He would have roles in 53 productions including "The Dirty Dozen," "Mars Attacks!" and "Any Given Sunday."
Often I wonder what more Brown could have done if he had continued to play football. But that mystery almost enhances his legacy. Most players retire when they become shadows of who they once were. Even Michael Jordan ended his career on a low note with his short stint with the Washington Wizards. With Brown there was no such blemish, almost a perfect career that led to his induction into the Hall of Fame in 1971.
So before petitions start going out about creating Michael Jordan Day, remember that there is a strong counter-argument for the rights to Feb. 17.