Michael Jordan is the ghost hovering over Derrick Rose's predicament.
His Royal Airness remains the standard for the Bulls, for the entire NBA and for more of sports than anyone might have imagined.
An entry on ussportspages.com's "Daily Links" jumped off the screen Monday morning: "Royals' Guthrie draws inspiration from Jordan."
What could this be all about? Which baseball Jordan could be referenced here? It couldn't be who I'm thinking it might be, could it be?
It not only could be him, but it is.
Jeremy Guthrie is a starting pitcher with the Kansas City Royals. Just for the record that's baseball, not basketball.
Yet a story that originated on kansascity.com reported that Guthrie "has 370 pairs of Air Jordans, many of which are locked in a special vault at his house."
The story quoted Guthrie as saying, "I enjoy it. It's one of those things that I collect, one of those things that has a big meaning for me, so I have lots of shoes."
Guthrie goes on to mention being inspired by Jordan's philosophy that to try something is important regardless of the result.
That was Jordan's mantra when he was winning championships with the Bulls and, perhaps more relevantly, when he hit .202 in the White Sox' minor-league system.
Guthrie was a kid when the first Air Jordans hit the market. They mean even more to him at age 33 … 15 years after Jordan's last Bulls game and a decade after his last NBA game.
This is meaningful back here in Chicago now because of the controversy surrounding the reluctance of Derrick Rose -- the closest thing the Bulls have had to Jordan since Jordan -- to return from a knee injury.
Just think of how many Bulls fans have muttered, "Jordan forced the Bulls to let him come back from his injury …" as another day passed without Rose making a ceremonious comeback?
Never mind that Jordan's injury was a foot rather than a knee or that until now Rose has done everything right while representing his team and his sweet home Chicago.
Every basketball player who comes through this town is measured in some way against Jordan. It doesn't have to even be expressed out loud. Sometimes it's simply understood: "You're not as athletic or as mentally tough or as driven or as (fill in the blank) as Michael Jordan was."
So every day that Rose isn't in the Bulls' lineup is another day to recall that Jordan would have stolen the keys to the United Center to get back onto the court.
Rose should feel flattered that he's compared to Jordan in any way, even if he pales by the comparison.
Every athlete in every sport -- Kobe Bryant, Albert Pujols or Peyton Manning -- suffers from the same fate. On ESPN's "Pardon the Interruption" on Monday afternoon, a host pointed out that the Heat's 18-game winning streak matches Jordan's longest with the Bulls. During the next half-hour on "SportsCenter," DeAndre Jordan's spectacular dunk Sunday was matched up against one of Michael Jordan's most spectacular dunks.
Most of today's athletes heard as youngsters the Jordan message that according to kansascity.com Guthrie heard: "Work hard, improve yourself, and you will be a winner regardless of how others perceive you."
Guthrie said, "Michael, as an athlete, I think he lived that each day."
That legacy is a lot for a player, even one as talented as Derrick Rose, to live up to in Chicago.
It might not be fair, but it's the way it is around here.