It's been a while since Michael Jordan, considered by some to be the best basketball player ever, retired from the National Basketball Association. But his legacy reverberates in basketball and beyond. In "Michael Jordan and the New Global Capitalism," Michael LaFeber wonders whether Jordan's outsized presence represents a sinister kind of cultural imperialism -- or whether he's just a globally admired athlete.
Basketball: The World's Sport
LaFeber uses the globalism of the sport of basketball as a backdrop for his discussion. He writes about how basketball has spread from a uniquely American game to achieve a presence throughout the world. From China to the West Indies and beyond, the NBA has projected its games (and its image) and in turn been enriched by the patronage and talent pools of its foreign fans.
The book starts out detailing Jordan's early years and his rise to stardom. Jordan was born in Brooklyn but moved to North Carolina. He distinguished himself in basketball during his final year of high school but wasn't much of a college prospect. The University of North Carolina picked him up, and by the end of his freshman year, he was a "national figure." He left college in 1984 to pursue a professional career, and that same year, the Chicago Bulls drafted him into the NBA.
Jordan as Public Figure
Part of the book deals with the idea of Jordan as a public figure. The fact of his intense celebrity makes LaFeber wonder whether Jordan should play a more active public role than just "star athlete." For example, he criticizes Jordan's lack of response to the controversy over Nike's labor practices in factories manufacturing Nike apparel.
Jordan as a Brand and the "New Global Capitalism"
The book conceives of Jordan as a brand as much as an athlete, one whose international celebrity offered a lucrative opportunity for companies like Nike, which capitalized on Jordan merchandise. LaFeber writes about how Nike utilizes Jordan and the sport as a whole to force "Americanization" on other cultures. Both the consumer markets offered by new legions of fans in far-flung places and the labor markets Nike has used to extract dirt-cheap labor (and even child labor) in making its products represent the dark side of Jordan's international popularity.
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