Michael Jordan Or Pele: Who Had The Greatest Impact?
by Dan Wade
In an article I published earlier, I took a beating for insinuating that Pele had a greater impact on world sports than Michael Jordan.
Jordan has a lot going for him, most of which doesn't need to be rehashed. He has the most recognizable silhouette in the world, rewrote the NBA record book and brought basketball to the world stage. He may be the most dominant athlete of all time, though Tiger Woods may steal that title from him when all is said and done.
Even in the face of Jordan's incredible accomplishments, I'm standing by Pele; there are two major reasons why.
First, Pele had a more difficult job than Jordan did in establishing himself as the world's premier player.
While Jordan became the face of basketball worldwide, for all intents and purposes he was bringing a new and different sport. At the very least, he was bringing to the fore what most of the world was ignoring.
Pele broke onto the world stage at just 17. He came from humble roots playing Joga Bonito and stole the spotlight. Even though everyone who saw him play already had preconceived notions on how football should be played. He overcame these stodgy fans and turned heads.
Pele was the consensus best player in the world even as he was reinventing the world's game; His name is synonymous with style and grace. He even was voted the Athlete of the Century by the IOC.
But Pele didn't simply fade into oblivion when he left the game he loved.
The second reason Pele's impact on world sports is greater than Michael Jordan's is what Pele did after he could no longer make opposing defenders look like they were wearing lead boots.
Since his football career ended, a career which included nearly saving the NASL, Pele has won lifetime achievement awards, been knighted, and been appointed to an ambassadorship by the UN.
Sir Edison Arantes do Nascimento KBE has also been appointed to a post in the Brazilian government and has actually cracked down on corruption in the domestic leagues.
Its no knock on Jordan that he hasn't done much since retiring besides kill the Wizards and Bobcats, and I mean that. Athletes spend so much of their life in the public eye, if they want to step out of it when they retire, more power to them.
Pele's decision to use his fame for causes to which he is committed is just another piece of his legend.
And even get me started on their movie careers. Victory or Space Jam? No question.
I've got nothing against Jordan, I grew up watching him and being amazed at everything he did. The man is one of the most mentally tough people to ever play any sport, he had a competitive fire like no one else, to say nothing of his unparalleled talent.
However, Pele matched him in skill level, completely redefined his game, and stayed active in the world long after he quit football.
I'm willing to hear why Jordan is the best player in sports ever, but it'll take some serious skill to pull me off Pele's side.
Just a note: don't bring up the 1992 Dream Team. Yes, Jordan featured heavily on that squad, but the gold was in the bag long before he signed up. Its like being the point guard on the Harlem Globetrotters: its important, but the team is going to win regardless.
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jb posted over 1 year ago
Well done sir!
Michael Griffin posted over 1 year ago
Good article, but I do think that these two are perhaps the most important sports men ever, in terms of breaking racial grounds.
two world class athletes like jordan and pele proved that it really doesn't matter what colour you are, you can stil be the best. and the fans were the ones to accept it.
gem asdani posted over 1 year ago
I say that the two living legends should have their impact compared EXCLUSIVELY on Movies:
Jordan: Space Jam starring Danny Devito and Wayne Knight
Aliens called Nerdlucks arrive on Earth to capture the Looney Tunes characters and take them back to Moron Mountain, an outer space theme park belonging to their boss, Mr. Swackhammer, voiced by Danny DeVito as the theme park is in need of a new attraction. Bugs Bunny convinces the aliens that the Looney Tunes must be allowed to defend themselves. Since the aliens are very short the Looney Tunes challenge them to a basketball game.
Pele: Escape to Victory starring Sylvester Stallone and Michael Caine
The film was inspired by the true story of Dynamo Kyiv's players, who defeated German soldiers while Ukraine was occupied by German troops in World War II. According to myth, as a result of their victory, the Ukrainians were all shot. The true story is considerably more complex, as the team played a series of matches against German teams, emerging victorious in all of them, before finally being sent to prison camps by the Gestapo. Most of the team were killed there, but a few survived.
I've seen them and obviously Victory is better. Space Jam has bugs bunny in it so its more for kids, while Victory has nazis getting their asses handed to them by Pele with Rambo in goal.
gem asdani posted over 1 year ago
ON a serious note, in terms of overall impact on developing their sports, its hard to say. Jordan really made basketball popular around the world with his skillful play, but football was already the world's dominant sport before Pele. What Pele did was show the world how the game should be played, like the London times said after his third World Cup "How do you spell Pelé?' G-O-D". Since then kids everywhere have dreamed about becoming him and standing in front of a billion viewers to become the next god of football. What Jordan did was show the game of basketball to the world and all its glory, he literally transformed the NBA single-handedly into a globally recognized brand. His individual achievements in the game will be unmatched for a long time. Hard to say whose had the bigger impact.
j. good posted over 1 year ago
I would simply put it like this; Though each from different sides of the spectrum. Who is the most recognizable- if you were to put both of them in a room that could be seen by everyone in the WORLD, who do you think more people would recognize? I believe most everyone wouldn't hesitate to say-MJ is that you? There are probably far more people that wouldn't even know who the "other" guy was. Just sayin'...facts are facts.
Sol Cameron posted about 1 year ago
HAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!!!!! LMFAO!!! Oh man your commet had me rolling!!!! No offence but that statement just highlights well known American (I'm makin an educated guess and presume ur American or at least have spent most of ur life in america) self-indulgance and naivete of other world cultures. You presume because MJ was such a marketing phenomenon who's endorsement of various products made him known the world over that he must be more famous than pele. What u obviously don't understand is what a phenomenon that the sport of football is (exemplified by the sort of pedestals it's idols a placed on eg. in argentina there's a church in honor of football legend maradona!). Basketball may get there but it's still a long way off. To explain wud require me to go into too much detail so ill say this. as a little boy growing up in an unassuming Carribean island u asked me who was MJ and i cud tell u he was a famous american. ask me who was pele and i cud tell u hes the greatest football player who ever lived; n mj was in his prime when i was a young kid while pele had been retired some 20 yrs earlier!
Hong Jae posted just now
Michael Jordan is not as popular in the world.
Spenser T. Harrison posted over 1 year ago
Muhammed Ali & Jackie Robinson
S B posted over 1 year ago
Ali and who?
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