Jacko Made Magic a Better Point Guard ... Are You Kidding?
"I truly believe that Michael made me a better point guard," Johnson said at Jackson's memorial.
Magic was just warming up.
"I want to thank Michael for opening up so many doors for African-Americans. He allowed Kobe [Bryant] and me to have our jerseys in people's homes across the world because he was already there."
Call me a skeptic, but I think a young Dirk Nowitzki or Manu Ginobili would have idolized Magic or Dr. J even if they'd never heard "Billie Jean." And most basketball historians trace the rise of international hoops to the 1992 Dream Team, not the King of Pop.
As for Jackson making Magic a better point guard, if he believes it who am I to argue? But how much praise will Johnson now have to heap at Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's memorial? Something tells me the Big Man in the Goggles helped Magic a lot more than the Wacky Man in the Surgical Mask.
This whole eulogy business has me confused. Actually, it has me wishing I were dead.
Croak, and everything you ever did right is magnified. Everything you ever did wrong is forgotten. I'm just surprised Bryant didn't credit Jackson with helping him develop his turnaround jumper.
His speech was one of the few restrained moments at Tuesday's memorial. I can't decide whether my favorite interlude was provided by Rev. Al Sharpton or Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-Neverland).
"As a member of the United States Congress, we understand the Constitution," she said. "We understand laws. And we know that people are innocent until proven otherwise."
At least that was a rare passing reference to Jacko's sexual-molestation trial, if not the $22 million in hush money he paid to make a civil trial go away, if not the sacks of drugs police hauled away from his mansion.
Not that there's anything wrong with that.
"Wasn't nothing strange about your daddy," Sharpton looked down and told Jackson's kids.
Let's hope Jacko's youngest son never sees the video of Dad dangling him from that balcony.
Other than Michael's previously undisclosed contribution to the Lakers' run of titles with Magic, I realize he had little to do with sports. It's just this gusher of selective amnesia has me wondering what will be said when some of our more controversial sports stars are laid to rest.
- Barry Bonds -- "Wasn't nothing strange about your daddy turning into Mr. Potato Head."
- Lawrence Phillips -- "He allowed me to have the jerseys of domestic abusers on my team because he was already there."
- Tonya Harding -- "We know people are innocent until it's proven they knew their husband was going to kneecap their biggest rival."
I didn't see anybody roll their eyes during all the Jackson's eulogizing. Of course, Hollywood is so detached from reality the crowd probably believed there was nothing strange about a 50-year-old black man who looked like a white woman and slept with a chimp.
The audience will be a little more grounded this weekend at Steve McNair's funeral. The way he died will cast an underlying awkwardness, though I doubt anyone will actually mention how a good family man was supposedly murdered by his girlfriend.
In this case, that's appropriate. Infidelity may have killed McNair, but it certainly didn't hang over his life like steroids with Bonds or domestic abuse with Phillips.
Some people say you're never supposed to speak ill of the dead. I just don't think grief should excuse glaring flaws or create false heroes. So when I heard that Michael Jackson is the reason kids now wear Kobe Bryant jerseys, it was just too much.
At least until we get to O.J.'s memorial. I can't wait to hear what Rev. Al comes up with for that.