How Crying Jordan became the most divisive image on the Internet

I love Crying Jordan. I am an unapologetic Jordanist.

There’s something about a tasteful, well-executed Photoshop of Jordan’s gin-swollen, twice-baked potato face that reaches me on a deep, visceral level.

This, of course, makes me pro-Jordan, a.k.a. part of the problem, a.k.a. one side of an increasingly divisive Internet war that came to a head Monday night after the NCAA championship game.

The outpouring of Crying Jordan memes after UNC’s loss to Villanova was unlike anything witnessed, and it spawned an equally fervent response from the other side of the coin: the anti-Jordanites.

With the 100 Years’ Hot dog-Sandwich War currently in a fragile cease-fire, the clash between Jordanists and anti-Jordan sympathizers has become the most intractable conflict currently marring the Lunchbreak Internet landscape.

And to understand how we’ve reached this point — how we’ve become caught in this crossfire of apathy and tobacco tears — we have to go back to the beginning. We have to look at the Crying MJ canon, starting with its inception:


I. Crying M-Jenesis

Fittingly enough, the roots of Jordan’s immortal tears are entrenched in the NBA Hall of Fame itself.

During his induction into the Hall in September, 2009, Jordan gave a 23-minute enshrinement speech, wherein Associated Press photographer Stephan Savoia snapped the image that would give birth to the meme.

After a few painstaking, definitely-productive watches, it appears the face occurs at the 1:45 mark, shortly after Jordan mentions teammate Scottie Pippen.

And just like that, the raw materials for a generation of GIFsmen and women were released into the galaxy.


II. Humble Beginnings

As KnowYourMeme notes, the first archaeological evidence of Jordan’s crying face as a punchline cropped up in April of 2012 on a site called MemeCrunch.

The original iteration: a "the Charlotte Bobcats are trash" joke.

And so the seed was planted.


III. Taking Root

Crying MJ took official root as a multipurpose meme in 2014.

A user who went by "At30wecashout" began pumping Photoshops onto forums at the sports and culture website The Coli.

Around this time is when I saw my first MJ meme. It was the original image macro of Jordan and his beached jellyfish head, accompanied by the immortal words "Booty had me like."

I laughed, because sometimes the booty truly does have you like that. And then I moved on, ignorant to the magnitude of the sleeping giant that had stirred.


IV. Dawn of Tears

In May, 2015, former Deadspinner Sean Newell posted a VICE Sports article titled "Stunning Photos of Michael Jordan, ruined by Crying MJ Face" (since retweeted by VICE):

The shops were good, and the post stands as one of pop culture’s first public acknowledgements that the image of Jordan and his tear-peppered wombat muzzle are amusing — or at the very least compelling.

Which, of course, paved the road for…


V. Summer of Jordan

Ah, the halcyon days of yore.

Summmer 2015 had it all: a Crayola depiction of Tom Brady, a bonkers NBA trade deadline, Manziel Mania 2.0 and a bourgeoning political nightmare germinating in America. And in all of this rich soil, the first crop of widespread Crying Jordan grew:

This span also included my first MJ, which wasn’t very good but imbued with an undying love for Maureese Speights and his dedication to being the finest funcle (read: fun uncle) in the NBA.

And from here the rain of MJs snowballed into…


VI. The Deluge

Fall/winter 2015 into early 2016 marked the wholesale McDonald-ization of Crying MJ.

Huffington Post made a cut-out MJ Halloween mask. Complex explained in clinical detail how to best deploy the meme. We, the Internet at large, got in on the act:

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. The meme was everywhere, apexing with the Arizona Cardinals Jordan-ing themselves during the NFC championship game.

This seems like a logical high water mark—a place where the MJ wave would break and fall back. Nope.


VII. Tears of the Son(s)

The inflection point of any addiction (and Crying Jordan is a national addiction) is acceptance.

And Jordan’s adult children, Marcus and Jeffrey Jordan, acknowledging the meme in January and accepting its place in theirs and their father’s life should’ve been a sensible turning point.

We should’ve gotten help after this. We should’ve asked for an adult. But we were insatiable. We pushed the limits. Now we’re on the verge of—


VIII. Jordpocalypse Now: Sum of All Tears

This is where we are currently: the end days, or near enough if makes no difference.

The battleground was set after the NCAA championship. Jordan got Jordan’d, UNC lost and the world’s servers drowned as the musk-water of a million Crying Jordans flooded timelines across the Earth.

Now the Anti-Jordan are Jordan’d. Former Jordan-ers are getting out the game. Everyone is stealing everyone’s content. The lifecycle of the Internet at large plays out in the microcosm of Michael’s wounded bloodhound eyes.


And so the battle rages, unending.

No one is safe from MJ. Logging onto social is walking into a wet, bread-bowl-headed war zone. 

I’m not sure when the meme will die, but I know its end will be a long, protracted and bloody affair.

Maybe it will stop when we’re faced with annihilation — an extinction event that guarantees none of us will live to see the dawn.

But probably not.

This is an unwinnable fight, guys. You either die a hero, or live long enough to see yourself Crying Jordan’d.

That’s just life.


Dan is on Twitter. "Our Jordans [gasp] WILL BLOCK OUT THE SUN!"  "…then we will meme in the shade."