Without a “23” or NBA logo visible on any item of Michael Jordan’s clothing that late night of February 26, the man pictured in sports’ proverbial encyclopedia under “Game-winner” scored the buzzer-beater of his life. The MJ of basketball (Bill Russell is Prince) stared down a midnight deadline that would’ve expired his exclusive rights to negotiate purchase of the Charlotte Bobcats and became the first former player to own an NBA team. While this achievement beams for Mike personally (raised in North Carolina) and culturally (bulldozing barriers ala Barack), he should be most prideful of the blueprint he’s laid for all of us who aim to be great. While Jordan’s road to icon stretches mostly of laminated hardwood, his steps are universal curriculum.
First off he did something so simple, yet essential in beginning that road towards destiny: he followed his heart. Though his first love was baseball, his heart beat best for his passion, basketball. It’s a decision you don’t need a growth spurt to make. It’s an early decision that can change the fate of a person’s life from resentful and regretful to purposeful and fulfilled. One that parents (of all ages) should encourage their children (of all ages) to always make. So after homework and chores are complete, let your son paint as much as possible. Then explain Kihende Wiley’s interpretations. Don’t oppress your daughter’s social butterfly. You’d surely be proud if she became Desiree Rogers.
Next young MJ remained competitive. He didn’t desire to simply play the game of basketball. He yearned to perfect it. Do we all “go to work” with that mindset? And just because you go hard doesn’t mean you’re safe from falling hard. When Michael failed to make his varsity team as a sophomore, he used rejection as fuel (“Whenever I was working out and got tired, I’d close my eyes and see that list in the locker room without my name on it,” says Jordan). So he kept a steady eye on the best around him, from his high school varsity team to NC State’s star David Thompson (years later he’d present Michael for Hall of Fame induction) and set out to be better. Many of us tend to worry so much about the future that we don’t give the present our full attention. Not Mike––he always cleaned his plate before praying for more. Star of JV squad, first. Averaged a triple-double as senior, second. Earned a scholarship to UNC, graduation.
The legend of MJ didn’t begin, though, until he manifested a road to greatness rule that values second to following your heart: be prepared when opportunity knocks. Michael’s first collegiate year landed him in his very first NCAA championship. Though a freshman, he impressed the greatest college coach enough to allow him on the floor during crunch time. How did he reward his coach for believing in him? By sinking the game-winning shot. That would be the equivalent of stepping in for a superior at work and convincing the company president that you deserve their salary.
There’s nothing to gain in rehashing Jordan’s 15 years of NBA brilliance. The fact that, regardless of how many All-Star teams he was voted on or trophies he accumulated, Mike never rested on his talent but instead sunk tooth and nail into perfecting and upgrading his craft should be inspiration for all, regardless of occupation or leisure.
What is worth highlighting is Jordan’s cognizance of his self-worth. After helping revolutionize Nike from Brooklyn to Beijing, he didn’t settle on being a cash cow like so many do. Instead of selling out he wanted in. Read slowly: He wanted his own. Nike gave Mike his Jordan Brand and Mike used it as a chess piece, aligning himself with the executive he aspired to be. He gave the league’s next superstars shoe deals (Carmelo Anthony, Dwayne Wade) and advised his successor (Kobe Bryant). Now after dropping $275 million for majority ownership of his hometown’s NBA team with the biggest free agent summer months away, Michael Jordan has enough capital and clout to own the next him (For…the…win). Now remove the basketball metaphor and tell me how you plan to win six championships.
Bonsu Thompson, The Rolling Stone 2001 “Hot Interviewer” has penned for mags like Details, XXL, Penthouse, SLAM and KING as well as notable brands such as MTV, VH1, Rocawear and Translation. Wanna keep up with the Brooklyn scribe? Follow him via Twitter.com/@DreamzRreal