There was a great article several years ago about Shirley Povich, longtime columnist for the Post, who covered sports for decades, until his death in 1998. The writer said it was amazing to hear him talk about seeing Babe Ruth and boxers from the same era, but then realized that one day he would, he hoped, be able to talk about Muhammad Ali and Secretariat in the same way.
He might have added Michael Jordan.
Jordan's first retirement came in the year of Povich's death. He came back with the Wizards from 2001-03, and it was credible, but no one remembers him for that. So taking 1998 as the year he stopped being impossibly great, he's been out of the game for 15 years, which means there are a bunch of people under the age of 20 who have no real idea just how good the man was.
Eric Freeman put together a video of Jordan attacking the rim. For the most part, it's not dunks, and what's really striking is that as you watch, you realize that he's really not using that many moves. When we watched him real time, he seemed wildly inventive, and we're not saying he wasn't. What's remarkable here is that he turns to the same basic moves, moves that he no doubt practiced thousands of times, over and over again. It never seemed like that live.
It speaks not so much to his inventiveness as his disciplined desire to be great. You can imagine him practicing that backwards flip, or that up and under, until he could do it in his sleep, working on his ballhandling and footwork. We didn't always notice those things in his glamour days, but they made a lot of the glamour possible.