Sports fans and analysts have often wondered aloud how Michael Jordan would have handled playing in the era of social media. And according to Kenny Smith, it would have been too much.
Smith joined Skip Bayless and Shannon Sharpe on FS1’s Undisputed to promote his recently released memoir Talk of Champions Tuesday morning. And as they broached the topic of Jordan vs LeBron, Sharpe asked Smith how he thinks Michael Jordan would have handled playing in the social media era.
“It would have been too much,” Smith said of his former North Carolina Tar Heels teammate. “Because think of how everybody in the world knew about him. He was like our version of musically, Michael Jackson. He was the most recognizable person in the world and I don’t know if social media – it would have been too much. It was almost too much and there was no social media and all you saw was Michael everywhere.
“Newspapers was our social media.” Smith continued. “Everyone had a newspaper back then…so we did have the device, it was just archaic. And he was in it! It just wasn’t instant. To see Michael instantaneous around the world – he’s a ten-time billionaire now, he would be a hundred-billionaire, easily. Because he just would be too popular.”
Jordan, however, is less sure about his ability to monetize social media. During a 2020 interview with Cigar Aficionado, Jordan admitted he may have struggled to survive the lack of privacy caused by Twitter.
“It’s to the point where some people have been able to utilize it to their financial gain and things of that nature,” Jordan acknowledged. “I don’t know if I could’ve survived in this Twitter [era], where you don’t have the privacy that you’d want and what seems to be very innocent can always be misinterpreted.”
Jordan barely ever dealt with criticism or personal attacks during his career as a professional athlete. He was accommodating to the media and in return, newspaper headlines were always kind to him. In the social media era, however, no one escapes criticism, regardless of how popular they were or are.
Imagine early morning images of Jordan at a casino circulating Twitter the day of a pivotal NBA Playoff game? Being one of the most recognizable faces in the world, Jordan’s desired privacy would have been impossible to maintain as he walked through a crowd of people, each one with a video camera in their hand or pocket. It would have been too much.