Stop the presses! Michael Jordan claims to be god. Yes, the man known as “Air Jordan” for his gravity defying dunks during his heyday with the Chicago Bulls. The man who put the tennis shoe empire Nike on the map and is so famous that even his own insignia is recognizable by everyone on the planet. The man whom the late Los Angeles Times writer, Jim Murray called the “Fred Astaire of the hardwood” in a recently republished article commemorating Jordan’s fiftieth birthday claims to be god.
In a recent interview Jordan had with ESPN’s Wright Thompson, it was revealed that the nickname given to Michael Jordan by his own security guards is Yahweh which is the Hebrew name for God in the Old Testament. Talk about the height of pride and arrogance. It is one thing to claim that you’re god, but to take the Judeo Christian God’s own name, and making it your own. I wouldn’t want to be in number twenty-three’s overpriced Air Jordans or be “Like Mike” for any price right about now. Jordan should have had enough sense to know that he isn’t god especially after his last NBA stint with the Washington Wizards, but I digress.
Now the claim to be god is nothing new. History has shown us that many people from rulers, dictators, and even Hollywood movie stars have claimed to be god. The Egyptian Pharaohs claimed to be god. Rome’s Caesars claimed deity, and even had their own people worship them as gods. Movie stars such as Shirley MacLaine (aka many lives Shirley) and even most recently Morgan Freeman claim to be gods (Yes, the guy who played god in Jim Carrey’s movie claims to be god too).
Even the Bible gives examples of those that claimed to be god. Take the examples of Pharaoh during the time of Moses, Nebuchadnezzar during the time of Daniel, and Herod during the Acts of the Apostles. All claimed deity for themselves as well (Exodus 5-12; Dan. 4: 28-37, Acts 12:20-23). By the way, the Bible shows us that things didn’t turn out well for those three gentleman after they made claims to be god, but you’ll need to read the rest of those stories from Scripture. You will find out after reading those passages from the Bible that God actually gets offended if anyone claims deity for themselves which would be no surprise.
Moreover, the ESPN article not only reveals Jordan’s pride and arrogance in his claim of deity, but the article is also a sad tale of a man who has everything, but ultimately has nothing. Jordan’s life is really Solomonesque in its scope. Jordan stated that he is dissatisfied with his life since he can’t fulfill that competitive drive which once satisfied him when he played basketball, and that he would return to playing professional basketball if he could. Jordan has attempted other avenues in his life to fulfill that void, but has come up empty.
This definitely should remind you of another man who attempted to fulfill his life with riches, accomplishments, and achievements. That’s right that man would be King Solomon as he describes his own story in the Book of Ecclesiastes. You see Solomon was the most powerful, richest, and wisest ruler in the whole world when he became the King of Israel and the successor to his father David’s throne. God was responsible for all of Solomon’s accomplishments, and Solomon knew this. Yet, despite all the blessings and honor which Solomon received from God, Solomon strayed. Solomon became more concerned with the things of the world rather than with his relationship with God. It became so bad for Solomon and he strayed so far from God that he actually worshipped other gods due to the influence of his many wives. In the end, Solomon found out that all the riches, accomplishments, and achievements in the world mean nothing without a relationship with God. Solomon acknowledges this very fact in the first chapter of the Book of Ecclesiates by saying:
“Vanity of vanities,” says the Preacher, “Vanity of vanities! All is vanity.” (Ecc. 1:2)
This is a direct warning from Solomon to all who would forgo a relationship with God and attempt to fulfill their lives with worldy things. In the end, it means nothing. All the fame, glory, riches, and accomplishments will fade away as Solomon found out, and he is warning the readers of this book right from the beginning of this fact. In the end, we know that Solomon repented of his sins because we find in the last chapter of Ecclesiates Solomon stated:
“The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person. For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil.” (Ecc. 12: 13-14)
This is good news for Michael Jordan. He still has time to come humbly before God, repent of his sin, and put his trust and faith in Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior. All of us are sinners who have fallen short of the glory of God, and we all deserve death and hell because of the sins that we have committed because we stand before a holy and righteous God (Rom. 3:23, 6:23). It is only by the grace of God that we are saved because it is God who ultimately grants salvation and repentance to those that He draws unto Him (Acts 5:31; John 6:44, 12:32). Anyone who attempts to achieve salvation by their own works will never make it because God’s standard for salvation is absolute perfection (Eph. 2: 8-10; Titus 3:5; Matt. 5:48). No one can make that standard, not even those who claim deity like Michael Jordan.
It’s not too late for Michael Jordan and it’s not too late for anyone who does not have a relationship with Jesus Christ. We may yet see Michael Jordan someday make a public announcement on television that he is now a believer and follower of Jesus Christ. That is one Michael Jordan highlight I would love to see above all others.
(For more on the Michael Jordan ESPN interview, please read Matt Smethurst’s excellent article)
Tony Zabala is currently the Evangelism Coordinator for the Santa Monica Church