Brand Jordan

NBA lockout is about to end. The hot topic of discussion is what’s the damage to Brand Jordan?

Michael Jordan is arguably the greatest basketball player of all times. But his skills and will are not enough to explain how he became the magnetic person that he is. During his Hall of Fame induction speech, Michael Jordan said: “There won’t be a new Michael Jordan.” This is a false statement, because who we knew and adored as “Michael Jordan” was actually not an individual. The magnet was the “Warrior/Hero archetype.”

Jordan was the ultimate ” Warrior/Hero” – an archetype that resonates extremely well with Americans. MJ followed the archetypal storyline: He was an ordinary guy from North Carolina, who stepped into an extraordinary world when he hit the game winner at the NCAA finals. Then, he encountered a new and superior enemy (first Bad Boys then Pat Riley’s Knicks), made new friends along the way (Pippen became the textbook description of the word sidekick), almost failed yet managed to overcome the challenge against all odds (won multiple championships) and finally saved the damsel in distress (City of Chicago and then the NBA basketball.) This is a typical storyline of a hero. Try to replace Michael Jordan with Luke Skywalker, or Rocky, or Harry Potter. What you will see is that the storylines are exactly the same, which proves that we witnessed the embodiment of the Warrior/Hero archetype by Michael Jordan.

What makes a Warrior/Hero so successful is his fierce competitiveness. Jordan’s obsession to win resurfaced during the lockout. Back in 1998 he advocated that NBA players should earn more. Now as an owner, he advocates that owners should earn more. That is perfectly fine and inline with the archetype. I don’t see why or how it will cause a backlash against Brand Jordan. Allow me to explain.

NBA players, who are paid to wear Brand Jordan are carefully handpicked: Wade, Paul, Anthony. I believe Jordan selects players not only according to their skill set but also according to their will (personality). They are highly “competitive” individuals. I don’t think any great AND competitive player would turn down an offer from Brand Jordan in the foreseeable future. Because, deep down those competitive players know that they’d do the same thing had they were in MJ’s shoes. That is the nature of a competitor. That said, Brand Jordan faces a bigger problem.
Michael Jordan’s behaviours over the last couple of years have been… uncharacteristic. As a player, he was extremely careful about his image and legacy. Marketers and PR people did a great job in promoting the positive aspects of his obsession to win. Yet, during the lockout and -actually, more obviously- his Hall of Fame speech the shadow side of the Warrior/Hero became obvious. According to Carol Pearson, the shadow attributes of a Warrior/Hero are: “Arrogance, developing a need for there always to be an enemy, not fighting for what really matters, ruthlessness and unprincipled, obsessive need to win, use power for conquest, a view of all difference as a threat.” A wise Warrior/Hero perceives his inner demons as his greatest enemy, and tries to beat his shadow before fighting others. Jordan is having tough time containing the shadow of his archetype. That is the real problem. Somehow PR people have to make sure that MJ’s competitiveness is under control and he is perceived to serve the greater good.

11 Comments Add yours

  1. Cindy Atlee says:

    Hi Gunter, Excellent post about the warrior/hero archetype. I agree that Michael Jordan really embodies it (shadows and all). The good news for Brand Jordan is that he can get back on track and will be more easily forgiven than others for stepping into the shadow of the Hero if he course corrects. There’s always more forgiveness for bad or unconscious behavior when it’s part of an authentic storyline that someone is living (witness the American public’s willingness to forgive Bill Clinton for his transgressions–he’s an authentic version of the Lover archetype, foibles and all; Herman Cain, not so much).

  2. Soydanbay says:

    Thank you very much for your kind comments Cindy. I am glad you liked it and agreed with my analysis. Seems like he is living the archetype in trance form. It is not him who controls the archetype. It is the archetype that controls him. As you mentioned, he can get back on track easily. Back in 1992, his gambling obsession became public and he managed to overcome that scandal. He can easily do it again and be forgiven. American culture is known to give people a second chance!

  3. @Soydanbay would you say it is him that will course correct? (Since your post in 2011 do you think he has) Or is it his handlers/team that will continue to course correct? I have trouble with MJ’s shadow but I realize that we all deal with our own no matter the archetype we live. Your comment about him serving the archetype as supposed to the archetype serving him is thought provoking. Besides PR and other forms of marketing how can a hero/warrior such as Michael Jordan begin to look inside and awaken? Many will content Michael Jordan to be the greatest basketball player, possibly athlete of all time and I might agree but what will it take for Jordan to embrace a humanitarian role such as Arthur Ashe, Magic Johnson, Drew Bledsoe, or Roberto Clemente? I would love to talk more about this with you.

    1. Soydanbay says:

      Hi Kenji. First, thanks for your detailed comment.
      Yes, it has to be him, who course corrects it. I don’t think he has done anything to fix his image yet. He has been silent. Time makes people forget things. Of course, going forward his PR team would like to make sure such outbursts don’t happen again or often. As Cindy Atlee wrote, we tend to forgive bad behaviour when they are on archetype (remember Jordan’s gambling issues)
      I believe for Jordan to awaken, first he has to be aware of the story he is living. Sometimes we do things without knowing why we do it. Learning about your self and getting to know yourself would be my first advice. For that to happen, he can seek professional help, or read a book of Dr. Pearson or even meet her in person!
      Michael Jordan is such an important figure in all of our lives. He literally embodies the hero/warrior. He stands for competitive perfection (mind you perfection is usually not a welcome idea in the US) Warrior/hero archetype is a pillar of the US culture. So as long as he controls his shadow, Jordan will be back on track.
      Does he have to embrace a humanitarian role? It would be nice, but not necessary. He can make a huge difference in any subject if really wants to. But Jordan never wanted to be known for his political stance.

  4. Soydanbay says:

    Excellent take on competition by HBR: http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2013/02/a_more_productive_way_to_think_about_opponents.html

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