Michael Jordan pioneered a winning mentality at Chicago Bulls, became a fashion icon with his trainers and even influenced David Beckham with his no.23

Whatever the sport, this lot changed the game and here, talkSPORT.com looks at those pioneering men and women every week. Up next is NBA superstar Michael Jordan.

Was he a nice guy? Does that really matter?

As fans have gorged on the fantastic ESPN series during lockdown, many will have been wondering if the bloke who helped Bugs Bunny beat aliens in an all-star basketball game can be that bad.

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“When people see this they are going say, ‘Well he wasn’t really a nice guy. He may have been a tyrant.’ Well, that’s you. Because you never won anything. I wanted to win, but I wanted them to win to be a part of that as well,” he explained in episode seven of The Last Dance.

Space Jam aside, Jordan said it was just how he played and who can argue with the results his impact had?

Six championships in six trips to the Finals, and six Finals MVP Awards. If he was rough around the edges, he got the best out of people to the point where he is widely considered to be the greatest basketball player of all time.

“Jordan’s appetite for winning was insatiable,” talkSPORT.com’s US sports editor, Alex McCarthy explains.

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Before he died, Kobe Bryant said his five NBA titles would not have been possible without Michael Jordan
AFP – Getty
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Jordan is a six-time NBA champion and his desire to win changed the mentality of everyone around him – both teammates, rivals and future players
Getty Images – Getty

“The individual accolades didn’t mean nearly as much to him. After those two years where the Bulls lost to the robust eventual champions the Detroit Pistons in 1989 and 1990, Jordan won a championship in all of his next six full seasons.

“That’s frankly absurd. Two three-peats in the same decade. Only someone like Bill Russell could compare to such a record and when he played the game in the 1960s when it wasn’t as athletic, developed or deep – height almost mattered above all else.

“Jordan became a pioneer in influencing future generations in the importance of winning.

“Sure, there’s a lot of money in basketball. But players make moves to win championships now. Kevin Durant to the Golden State Warriors, Anthony Davis to the Los Angeles Lakers and Russell Westbrook – ironically a Jordan athlete – to the Houston Rockets.


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“The importance of having an NBA title on your legacy has never been higher and one could argue MJ heightened that culture.”

When he arrived at the Bulls in 1984, there was a culture of drugs and parties, but he transformed the entire culture and got everyone around him – from teammates to staff – to set his sights higher.

There didn’t seem much Jordan couldn’t do on the court from impossible baskets and flamboyant play that earned him nicknames like ‘His Airness’.

“There’s Michael Jordan and then there is the rest of us,” Magic Johnson said.

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‘His Airness’ was one of Jordan’s many nicknames during a career that entertained crowds with slam dunks
Getty Images – Getty

Larry Bird, following a play-off game where Jordan dropped 63 points on the Boston Celtics in just his second season, said of the young player: “God disguised as Michael Jordan.”

He was also the first superstar athlete. In an era without social media, his name was still global – Even people who had never even seen a basketball game knew who he was.

And you didn’t have to love the game to own a pair of Air Jordans, the shoes he wore on the court that became must have fashion items.

It could be argued he paved the way for LeBron James and Steph Curry to make their fortune.

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Beckham moved to Real Madrid in 2003 and opted for no.23 because of Jordan and the footballer continued wearing the iconic number at LA Galaxy

Before him athletes were just athletes.

He pioneered their earning power, showing future generations that a simple trip abroad to meet fans on the other side of the world can add a few more zeroes to the bank balance.

Now it’s normal for Nike and Adidas fly people like Paul Pogba to other continents for meet and greets and show off their skills.

Jordan was the spearhead in the NBA’s path to globalization when he, along with the best players in the league, were treated like rockstars at the 1992 Olympics.

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Air Jordans are still popular having first been worn in 1984
Getty Images – Getty

Jordan is closing in on 60 years old and is still regarded as cool – he’s had as many name checks in hip-hop songs as Alan Brazil has had champagne lunches.

It has been nearly 20 years since he last NBA game and almost 25 since he was part of the Looney Tunes side that beat the Monstars.

He burst onto the scene and wowed with his ability and ended it as an icon.

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