Everyone always talks about what a great basketball player Michael Jordan was, but few ever mention the fact he hit .202 in Double-A baseball while committing 11 errors and hitting only three home runs.
Compare that to Boston GM Danny Ainge who spent three years at the major league level, hitting a career .220, and most will agree that Ainge, while not wildly successful in the MLB, was still a better baseball player. Ainge spent three years playing for the Blue Jays before moving on to the NBA to play with the Celtics, Kings, Trail Blazers, and Suns.
Ainge’s NBA career, much like Jordan’s, was superior to his MLB career, but at least Ainge found his way to the majors. He was superb in the field, posting a .999 fielding percentage in center field, while also posting great numbers as a utility infielder capable of playing his primary position of second base, as well as playing some third base, and short stop.
Indeed, Ainge was a prototypical infielder whose value lied in his defense, while Jordan’s value lied only in his marketability and drawing fans to watch the Birmingham Barons of the White Sox farm system.
So, it then comes down to this: How can you compare Ainge’s success in baseball but less than awesome NBA career to a player who was the greatest hooper of all time yet never even cracked the majors?
I don’t suppose you can compare them at all, nor attempt to discern how Jordan’s lack of success in baseball may or may not balance the scales in terms of compensating for Ainge’s inferiority on the court. It’s comparing apples to oranges, to be sure, yet at some point you have to draw a comparison…
Let’s face it, you’re comparing a guy who played at the pro level in two different sports to the greatest player of all time who couldn’t reach the pro level in his second sport.
At any rate, this comparison may border on absurd, as comparing a mediocre athlete like Ainge to the explosive talents of Michael Jordan isn’t really a tenable argument. But most don’t consider that while Jordan could do things on the court that Ainge couldn’t do, Ainge could say the same thing about the diamond. His fielding skills put Jordan’s to shame, and Jordan likely couldn’t have hit above .150 against major league pitching.
Ainge has also had a more successful career as a general manager, but that is a topic for another day. Right now, suffice it to say that Ainge was a better two sport athlete, if only because he could competently play both sports.