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Kanye West Is Not the Only Michael Jordan

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In a recent interview with the New York Times, the ever-self-aware Kanye West referred to himself as "the Michael Jordan of music." For such an innovator, the comparison was awfully derivative: the Air era is littered with examples of standouts alleging that they're like Mike. But perhaps that was Ye's intent, to liken himself to such high-achievers as the Michael Jordan of …


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… RODEO: TY MURRAY

JORDAN TIME: As a seven-time All-Around World Champion at bull riding, Murray was one of the sport's few nationally visible stars. After retiring in 2002 at age 32, Murray reflected on his career and concluded that he was "the Michael Jordan of rodeo." And, by all accounts, he was: Fans around the country still refer to him by his nickname, the "King of the Cowboys."

NOW: Murray is president of the PBR (Professional Bull Riders) and has made numerous TV appearances since retiring, including on CSIDancing with the Stars and Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.


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… CIVIL RIGHTS: AL SHARPTON

JORDAN TIME: In a 2002 Guardian article that ran during his campaign to get the Democratic nomination for the 2004 presidential election, reverend Sharpton responded to the suggestion that younger generations don't look up to him by saying, "I'm the Michael Jordan of [civil rights movements]. You don't believe me? Then don't argue with me."

NOW: Sharpton hosts a nightly political talk show on MSNBC, PoliticsNation and a radio talk show, Keepin' It Real. He also makes regular appearances on CNN and Fox News. He did not become president.


… BUSINESS: DAMON DASH

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JORDAN TIME: Dash, a self-described "hip-hop impresario, fashion guru, filmmaker and musical mentor for Victoria Beckham," was never one to shy away from the limelight. It's little surprise then that the former head of Roc-A-Fella Records also described himself in 2004 as the “Michael Jordan of business.” 

NOW: Dash is heavily in debt and facing potential criminal charges for failing to pay New Jersey and New York state taxes. The $50 million empire he built with Jay-Z crumbled dramatically: The New York Daily News reported on May 10, 2013 that Dash has been forced to give up multiple homes, is under a mountain of debt and faces "a slew of lawsuits filed by landlords."


… BARBECUE: PHILIP GREEN

JORDAN TIME: In a 2004 article about the upcoming Rib America Festival in St. Louis, the Post-Dispatch reported that local amateur barbecuer and festival participant Philip Green of Fort Worth, Texas, claimed, “I’m the Michael Jordan of barbecue. I’ve been doing this my whole life.”

NOW: Probably cooking something delicious.


John Iacono/SI John Iacono/SI

… THE BUFFALO BILLS: THURMAN THOMAS

JORDAN TIME: In 1991, the Bills and Thomas, their star running back, came a Scott Norwood field goal away from the first Super Bowl in team history. After rushing for 135 yards and a touchdown, Thomas took it as a slight that he didn't receive Super Bowl MVP honors. So in 1992, prior to the Bills' second Super Bowl appearance, Thomas crankily dubbed himself “the Michael Jordan of [the Buffalo Bills]," and added that he "wants the ball all the time" because he's "the best all-around athlete in the league," according to a 1996 Fort Worth Star-Telegram story.

NOW: Thomas averaged just 23 yards in the Bills' three subsequent, consecutive Super Bowls losses, and ultimately ended his 12-year career in 2000. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2007 and has since headed up two companies: Thurman Thomas Sports Training and Thurman Thomas Cigars.


… FOOTBALL: DUANE STARKS

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JORDAN TIME: As a rookie cornerback with the Baltimore Ravens, former University of Miami standout Starks lobbied hard for more playing time. According to a Baltimore Sun article from 1999, he did so by pointing out that he saw himself as the “Michael Jordan [of football]."

NOW: That desired playing time eventually arrived: He saw enough minutes to post an impressive 20 interceptions in his first four seasons with the Ravens. Retired since 2008, Starks is now by his own account a "philanthropist, entrepreneur and business owner." He has 915 followers on Twitter.


… NEWSSTANDS: RICHARD GRAFF

JORDAN TIME: In response to the city of Chicago attempting to relocate his business, enthusiastic and (by some accounts) troublemaking newsstand owner Graff was quoted in a 1994 Washington Post article saying, "I'm the Michael Jordan of newsstands... I'm the best."

NOW: No trace of Graff on the Internet (he's more of a print guy), though he was mentioned as recently as 2007 in a Chicago Business article.


… COMEDY: TOMMY DAVIDSON

JORDAN TIME: Having starred in his own Comedy Central specials Illin' in Philly and On the Strength and made his film debut in Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls (1995), Davidson was near the top of the comedy world in 1997. That may be why he said, in an interview with the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette prior to a stand-up appearance in Little Rock, "I'll do impressions, I'll play with the audience, I'll do song parodies … I'm the Michael Jordan of comedy."

NOW: Davidson's national profile isn't what it once was. His roles during the 2000s included supporting parts in Juwanna Mann (2002) and Black Dynamite (2008).


… OF VENDING: ALBERT TOWNS

JORDAN TIME: Prior to the 1998 MLB All-Star game in Denver, Towns, a 24-year-old Coors Field beer man, proclaimed himself "the Michael Jordan of vending" in a Denver Post piece. He was reportedly able to pour a beer into a glass with one hand while doling out change to customers with the other—a feat that's arguably as impressive as anything Jordan or Kanye ever accomplished.

NOW: Presumably getting by on reputation alone.

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