In an all-time feat of prestige media acknowledging dumb internet, the New Yorker’s website has offered an enjoyable account of the Crying Jordan meme and the famous basketball guy it happens to feature. It is partly an origin story for the teary face, this inexhaustible wellspring of humor whose pleasures only intensify over time. And it is partly theory on the coolness of Michael Jordan—an attempt to disentangle the man, the meme, and the marketing machine, all moving distinctly from one another. One of its more perceptive points:
It’s ironic, too, that, as the man himself becomes inevitably less cool, the sneaker brand that bears his name has become only more sought-after and fetishized, to the point that “Jordan” and “Jordans” mean very different things.
It’s true: you can be reduced to one of the sweetest, most reliable punchlines on the internet, and your sportswear brand can still surpass $2 billion in 2015 sales.
Inevitable is the right word here: the man stays stubbornly clad in the same ultra-baggy/acid-washed/mock-turtleneck/other physical embodiment of the of ‘90s, but eventually it’s not the ‘90s anymore. The man prone to sociopathic competition grows restless and brashly speculative about how he’d match up against the game’s current greats, well after leaving the court that served as his best outlet. Elsewhere, people make babies who then become the young people who populate the internet and indulge in dank memes without having watched the legend do legendary stuff. (You don’t need to know that he was the greatest to relish his weeping mug; all memes become absurdly divorced from their source material as their reach their peak potential; no one enjoys Dat Boi as an homage to Animation Factory Essential Collection 3).
All this stuff happens naturally! The man ages less gracefully than his devotees might hope, a glorious meme arises from the ashes of his Hall of Fame speech, and the marketing machine churns on unfazed. He’s getting a sequel to his 88 minutes blockbuster native advertisement, which I’m sure will contain some reverent shoutout; I (and 9 million others) still watch YouTube compilations devoted to a single move of his. I hope Jordan is cry-laughing all the way to the bank. I’d rather be a very rich punchline than any other kind.