I know exactly what I would say to Michael Jordan if I ever met him. Word for word. I spent my entire childhood daydreaming that I would somehow meet him. I’ve played the scenario over and over in my head. And there’s really only one thing I could say to him.
Michael Jordan was my childhood hero. If you knew me as a kid you just read that line and said something like, “Well, duh.” You probably then had some memory of me running around with a dirty Michael Jordan t-shirt dribbling a ball and awkwardly sticking my tongue out. He wasn’t just my hero: He was my idol. Literally. When the prophets of the Bible condemned idolatry, they were thinking of people like the nine year old Bryson Kearl.
While the years have passed, and I’ve come to see Jordan for what he really is—a truly gifted athlete with a competitiveness unsurpassed in almost any other arena of life, but nonetheless a very flawed man—my love for him has waned. And I’m okay with that.
I am still to this day in awe of the memories I have of watching Michael Jordan play basketball. Nobody in my life has ever come close to being as dynamic on the court as Michael was in his prime. When he played, my eyes were magnets, uncontrollably connected to my parent’s television set. He seemingly never let me down. The greater the moment, the greater he played. The limits by which the other nine men on the court were bound held no sway to the greatness that was Michael Jordan. And no other reality could have been believed by the childhood version of me.
His lasting impact on my life was his ability to send my never-slowing imagination into spin cycle. If I watched a Bulls game that ended in the early afternoon, you could say goodbye to the rest of my day. I was in a place that only me and my imaginary friend Michael could go. Whether I was throwing rolled up socks into a laundry basket as Patrick Ewing tried to block my shot or spinning around Joe Dumars to sink the game winner at the school across from my house, I was gone. Hour after hour, shooting hoops, imagining wildly, and loving every minute of it.
But all that ended. A young boy’s imagination is always dampened by the cold wet realities of life. Michael eventually retired (for real), he eventually exposed himself in unflattering ways, and I eventually had to grow up. Again, I’m okay with that. There is order in this world, and its designs have served me well. I now have a beautiful wife and daughter, and we have a baby boy on the way. I have a good job. I have enjoyable hobbies. Life is good, albeit less imaginative.
Enter Jimmer Fredette.
What Jimmer has done on the basketball court in recent weeks justifies the ridiculous quantity of accolades going his way right now. So much has been written about Jimmer in both local and national media of late that I can’t pretend to add anything to the archives. But what he has done to me—and most notably to my imagination—has earned my unwavering respect.
These past few weeks, as “Jimmer Fever” has reached Beatlemania-like levels here in Utah, I’ve been living in some sort of weird time warp. As I’ve watched BYU’s every game, I’ve found myself holding tightly to my couch armrest. Waiting for the next goose bump moment, trying to hold my excitement in check so as not to scare my daughter. Openly dancing in my living room without conscious thought. I’ve even caught myself daydreaming wildly as I did many years before.
During last night’s BYU-SDSU game, I had a thought that—upon realizing the thought—made me openly laugh out loud at myself. Thoughts are never accurately portrayed in words, but here’s my attempt to dictate what I thought: “When I make it to the NBA, I want to pattern my game after Jimmer’s.”
It was a delusional thought, I know. But when the thought set in and I started laughing, it was the kind of laugh that left me wanting more. I was loving the moment, and I was in awe at what Jimmer had done to me. He had brought me back to a time when nothing was impossible, and even a rolled up sock and a laundry basket could keep me happy for hours at a time. And my imagination was sent, once again, into spin cycle.
As the game ended and I saw the BYU fans descend upon Jimmer as if he were John Lennon and the year was 1964, I laughed at them. But then I realized that if a younger version of me were there, I’d be doing the exact same thing. And then I thought, “What would I say to Jimmer if I actually met him?” Immediately, I knew the answer to my question.
I’d say the exact same thing I would say to Michael Jordan. I’d walk up to him, go to shake his hand, and simply say, “Thank you.” What more could I say?