Michael Jordan was a gift and a curse.
In 1997, my world pretty much revolved around MJ (but you knew that already). Sure, I knew, appreciated and loved watching other players like Penny, Shaq, Payton, Webber, Olajuwon, Barkley, Garnett, Kemp and even two young bucks attemping to learn their way around the league named Iverson and Kobe, but Mike was the say all, end all, be all when it came to the greatest of all time. And if you never played in the NBA, good luck snagging my attention altogether.
Then came the movie Rebound: The Legend of Earl ‘The Goat’ Manigault.
Back in the ’90s, my house had HBO.* Rebound was about basketball, so I figured giving it a shot couldn’t hurt. Over the course of two hours, Manigault – played by Don Cheadle – and his life rendered me physically incapable of moving from my couch.**
Even at the tender age of 11, the importance of ‘The Goat’ stuck with me. The legends of his superhero-like vertical to snatch money off the top of the backboard were one thing. As was his patented “double dunk.” His aura as a New York City hoops icon were another.
Yet, it’s the reason why ‘The Goat’ never graduated past hood supremacy that captivated me. For those unaware why Earl is arguably “the best player you’ve never heard of,” it’s simple. Try the two familiar reasons many high school legends fall off the tracks before recognizing their true potential: drugs and wrong crowds.
Seriously, I’ve already said too much. Because if Kareem Abdul-Jabaar says you’re the scariest player he’d ever seen step on a basketball court, the sales pitch should’ve stopped right there.
* – Remember having HBO in the ’90s and being the creep of all creeps and catching a Real Sex episode? Yeah, me neither.
** – Well, to be fair, as IMDb coins it, it’s “a dramatization of the life of Earl ‘The Goat’ Manigault (Don Cheadle), with a lot of factual based occurrences.”