Derek Jeter’s No. 2 was retired by the New York Yankees on Sunday, a fitting closure to one of the greatest careers in franchise history.
Jeter won five World Series and finished as the Yankees’ all-time leader in hits, doubles, at-bats, games played, stolen bases, and games played, and Cooperstown certainly beckons in the near future.
The 14-time All-Star cast a larger than life figure in New York and his place within the city’s local sports scene hasn’t been replicated since he retired.
Currently, the off-field exploits of a key member of the New York Mets‘ pitching rotation has devolved into parody, the New York Jets can’t figure out their quarterback rotation, the New York Knicks are being driven into the ground by Phil Jackson, the Brooklyn Nets have traded away all their assets and are consigned to at least a half-decade of mediocrity, the New York Rangers were recently upset in the second round of the NHL playoffs, and the Yankees are an upstart in “prove-it” mode this year.
The Giants, however, have high hopes heading into the upcoming NFL season, and their standout receiver Odell Beckham Jr. has the opportunity to replicate Jeter’s civic icon status.
Here’s what he can do to become the next undisputed King of New York.
Create an iconic playoff moment
Jeter shone so brightly during the playoffs that his greatest plays are memorialized in title case. During the 2001 American League Division Series against the Oakland Athletics, Jeter cut off an errant throw from Shane Spencer and flipped it to Jorge Posada to tag Jeremy Giambi just in time, with the moment lionized as “The Flip.”
A few weeks later with the city of New York reeling from the Sept. 11 attacks, Jeter hit a walk-off home run during Game 4 of the World Series, becoming the first player in league history to hit a home run in November. Jeter’s “Mr. November” nickname was established, a play on Reggie Jackson’s October moniker.
There’s still plenty of time for Beckham to enjoy a decorated playoff career, but he’ll need to be at his best when the stakes are at their highest if he is to enjoy Jeter’s level of on- and off-field success.
Establish an international media campaign
During his career, Jeter was constantly extolled by the New York media for his cool demeanor and on-field ability. Some have painted a revisionist history of Jeter’s career, incorrectly believing that he didn’t engage in self-promotion, despite an endorsement portfolio that included Nike, Gillette, and Gatorade, among others.
Beckham is already a superstar in the truest sense, name-dropped by Kanye West on “The Life of Pablo,” hanging out with Drake and Young Thug, and made Forbes’ 30 Under 30 list in the sports category. It’s time for Beckham to continue to go on an international media tour.
The NFL made efforts to become an international presence and Beckham should travel with the league or one of his endorsement partners in order to heighten his presence internationally. An engaging speaker and persona, Beckham would be a delight on NBC’s “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon”, ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” and VICELAND’s “Desus and Mero” while featuring in advertisements across the world.
Minimize on-field antics
This space isn’t trying to tone-police Beckham and it makes sense that a 24-year-old superstar would often grow frustrated during the course of a game. However, Beckham drew scrutiny for throwing down a kicking net and delivering an illegal, devastating blindside hit on New Orleans Saints safety Kenny Vaccaro. Eli Manning publicly scolded Beckham for his on-field behavior and he acted in accordance for the rest of the season.
No one is suggesting that Beckham tone down his passion, nor his personality, but staying out of on-field tantrums and feuds would go a long way to improving his reach and marketability.
Finish career with numerous team records
Jeter rewrote a portion of the Yankees’ storied record book, becoming the avatar of the team’s five World Series victories spanning from 1996-2009. Beckham is already on the same trajectory, holding numerous team and league records after becoming the fastest player to reach myriad receiving milestones. By the time Beckham finishes his playing career, they may as well build him a statue if he continues at this pace. And if he does, he should equal Jeter’s iconic status.
Win multiple Super Bowls
There are few things New York loves more than a perpetual winner and Jeter’s postseason record will forever endear himself to the city’s denizens. In this regard, Beckham is facing an uphill but not completely unfathomable battle. The Giants are well positioned to contend for a Super Bowl over the next three years after spending $200 million to successfully revamp their defense last summer. Beckham received his first taste of the postseason last summer, culminating in an abysmal four-catch, 28-yard performance during a 38-13 loss to the Green Bay Packers.
It’s easy to forget that Beckham is entering his fourth season this fall and time is on his side. With the Giants amid a genuine window of opportunity for the Lombardi Trophy, Beckham needs to bring home multiple titles to gain the everlasting respect Jeter engenders.
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