Michael B. Jordan: More Than Just Basketball
By: Romain Hufbauer
As a diehard basketball fan, the idea that the name Michael Jordan is no longer synonymous with basketball greatness is sacrilegious. However, as Michael B. Jordan has transitioned from playing quarterback Vince Howard in Friday Night Lights to a worldwide icon of cinema, we are witnessing a living legend put his stamp on history and popular culture.
Once labeled as “the next Will Smith,” Michael B. Jordan has since carved out his own niche in the film industry as a charismatic, dedicated, and multi-purpose actor. Jordan named Will Smith, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Tom Cruise as his aspirations in a GQ interview, however, from an outsider’s perspective Jordan is the ideal blend of these actors. He has the charisma of Smith, the classiness of DiCaprio, and the athletic capabilities of Cruise. His ability to harness the differentiating qualities of Hollywood’s most popular figures is a tribute to his own star power.
Jordan’s rise to stardom officially began when he teamed up with innovative director, Ryan Coogler, for Fruitvale Station: a biopic representing the events leading to the murder of Oscar Grant in 2009 by a BART Police Officer in Oakland, California. Since then, Jordan has continued his successful partnership with Coogler by acting in Black Panther as Eric Killmonger and in Creed and Creed II as Adonis Creed. These films all have one thing in common: they’ve had a lasting impact not only on the film industry, but on the general public as well. Fruitvale Station showed us a compassionate way to tell the story of a life unfairly taken away. Black Panther proved that a superhero movie doesn’t just have to broach the topics of fantasy and superhuman strength. Most recently, the Creed franchise has resurrected the legendary Rocky films by injecting it with youth and making it relevant to current pop culture.
None of these films would have garnered the worldwide acclaim they did without Michael B. Jordan. It's one thing to simply act in a movie, but another to be so consumed by a role that your performance crosses the barrier between a movie and its audience. Jordan has mastered this practice, whether it be through working out three times a day in order to ‘create’ his Creed and Black Panther body or diving so deep into the character of Adonis Creed that he produces a touching emotional account of a man looking to conquer all obstacles.
This dedication to his craft makes him one of, if not the, leading actor of this generation. Not only does he act in box office films, but he’s also significantly involved in today’s popular culture. From voicing a character in the hit video game NBA2K17 to appearing on popular YouTube segments “Hot Ones” and “Sneaker Shopping” with Complex to ultimately being named GQ Man of the Year, Jordan is an icon for the public and represents a sophisticated actor who is aware of lifestyle trends.
Unlike in the era prior to social media dominance when there was a ‘Chinese wall’ in between the lives of celebrities and the rest of civilization, nowadays bridging the gap between the two is what makes someone a generational star. The ability of a celebrity to relate to their fans and to the public is the key to building a lasting and successful reputation in today’s entertainment industry. Jordan has harnessed this, not only with his aforementioned work in popular culture, but also with his genuine and appreciative personality. He understands that his stardom is a result of his fans and therefore he is always candid during interviews and isn’t afraid to share personal details about his life. Jordan’s dedication to his supporters extends to the point where he will go as far as surprising a girl who took a cardboard cutout of him to her prom. While this may all seem trivial, it is the reason Jordan has an immense fan base and is given various career opportunities which range beyond the movie screen.
Pandering to the public may seem like an easy enough skill to learn as an actor, but genuineness is what separates the celebrities who care about their audience and those who simply want greater acclaim. Michael B. Jordan epitomizes the genuine superstar and as a result, will go down as one of the greatest actors of this generation.