Michael Jordan may be “more than just an internet meme,” but his emotional reaction to receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom Tuesday became just that.
With tears in his eyes, the five-time MVP was presented with one of the highest civilian honors by President Barack Obama at the White House – and the Twitter-verse took notice.
Images of Jordan’s face during the ceremony quickly sparked a flurry of new and old memes as the sports icon became yet another viral sensation.
Yet, in celebrating Jordan’s achievements, Obama noted that the NBA icon is more than just some of the historic moments he made in sports history.
“MJ is still more than those moments, more than just the best player on the two greatest teams of all time – the dream team and the 1996 Chicago Bulls—he’s more than just a logo, more than just an internet meme,” Obama said, referring to the infamous "Crying Jordan" meme.
Jordan’s tear-stained face during a 2009 speech at his Basketball Hall of Fame induction ceremony became a viral meme on social media, used by the sports world as the go-to symbol of sadness in defeat. The meme often features Jordan's watery mug superimposed onto losing team's players, fans, mascots, coaches and beyond, employed to comment on any number of sports failures.
“[He’s] more than just a charitable donor, or a business donor committed to diversity,” Obama added. “There is a reason we call somebody 'the Michael Jordan of' — the Michael Jordan of neurosurgery or the Michael Jordan of rabbis or the Michael Jordan of outrigger canoeing. They know what you're talking about. Because Michael Jordan is the Michael Jordan of greatness.”
But as Jordan’s eyes filled during Obama's remarks, the "Crying Jordan" meme came to life in front of our eyes, and the Twitterverse churned out a new batch of memes: Crying Jordan 2.0
Photos of Jordan’s emotional reaction began sprouting on the social media site, many side-by-side with his long-viral meme.
Jordan was among 21 recipients for this year’s Presidential Medal of Freedom, including fellow sports icons Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the NBA's all-time leading scorer, and Vin Scully, who spent 67 seasons as the broadcaster of the Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers.
They also included Ellen DeGeneres, who has advocated for equality and fairness, and Tom Hanks, who has worked for social and environmental justice.
Obama said the activists, athletes and artists "helped push America forward, inspiring millions of people around the world along the way." He added that the medal is "a tribute to the idea that all of us, no matter where we come from, have the opportunity to change this country for the better."