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Michael Jordan Is 60, and I Take That Personally

A Gen Xer reflects on why it’s so weird when our heroes age along with us

Michael Jordan at 60 years old, eyes closed but smiling
The Arrow/Getty Images

Michael Jordan turned 60 recently.

Take all the time you need. I needed about 10 minutes.

Anyone born in 1963 is turning 60 this year, and I cannot shake the feeling that it’s all just a big miscommunication. Like punching numbers into a calculator and hitting multiply instead of add. So I hit C (and CE, who are we kidding?), typed it again and there it was: 60. 

Even that reference is ancient; it’s the future, so I just yell the numbers into the ether, and a robot voice tells me the answer. Why doesn’t that make me feel old, but Michael Jordan turning 60 does?

Because I was 20 when I met him. And that means I must have aged, too.  

I was the youngest talk show host at 610 WTVN in Columbus, Ohio, and my listeners would routinely try to stump me on Jordan trivia for prizes. I’d secretly watch Bulls games during my show, only to be discovered by my own outbursts. One night, a listener asked me why I didn’t just ask for a press pass to a Cavs game. I was 19 and, for once, completely stumped. I mean, it couldn’t be that easy, right?

Oh my God, it was! I simply asked the sports director, and one month after my 20th birthday, on Nov. 9, 1995, I met my hero.  

That morning, on my way to Cleveland, I bought my first video camera. The very first time I turned it on, I was illegally taping Michael Jordan in the locker room (for what would later become a documentary). Yes, I risked my entire professional career because my hero was in front of me. I then proceeded to tape him from the court (also not allowed) and got him to sign my jersey. 

He even scolded me: “You could lose your stripes for this, dawg.” All I could do was smile and nod. I knew with every fiber of my being that my behavior was unprofessional and inappropriate. But it was also life-changing. 

Twenty-five years later, when I told the story to my children — they’re 9 and 10, respectively — their main takeaway was confusion. Why, they wondered, did our dad steal some old basketball player’s sweaty towel? (Yes, I may’ve walked off with it.)

My Gen X friends have a slightly different response. “YOU HAVE MICHAEL JORDAN’S TOWEL IN YOUR ATTIC?”

All of my Jordan-loving friends are either in their 50s or pushing 50, just like me. Which makes it even weirder that Jordan is 60. How did we all end up in the same stage of life? Why did we think our heroes were so much older than us? Why does 60 seem impossible?

There’s really only one man to blame for this confusion: LeBron James. Yes, every Jordan fan’s favorite punching bag is actually making this harder than it should be.

Believe it or not, Jordan and LeBron both played in the NBA in 2003. Jordan ended his career in April, at age 40. LeBron started his in October. LeBron is still averaging 30 points per game at age 38, and it’s seriously messing with our ability to process life. It seems like Jordan could still suit up. Oh, I bet he could. I bet even at 60, he could help a team. Wouldn’t that be incredible?

Sorry, that’s my inner child popping up. My reality is far more humbling.

“Alexa, what’s the most ibuprofen you can safely take in one day?” I just heard myself say out loud.

Happy birthday, Michael. (The answer, by the way, is six.)