Just so people know, I’m not an apologist for Michael Jordan. In fact, I hate Michael Jordan for what he did to the Utah Jazz in the NBA Finals. He faced Bryon Russell! The only claim I have is that every time Jordan’s shot from the 1998 final is repeated, it shows that he cheated. Yet as much as it pains me to say it, Michael Jordan is by far the greatest player in NBA history.
Jordan was unstoppable. Every time you saw Michael Jordan play, you knew you were seeing something very special. Jordan had the ability to improve his game on any occasion. If you needed to be a facilitator, then you were the perfect facilitator. If he needed to be a scorer, then you couldn’t stop him from getting his points. Jordan understood the flow of the game. He knew when he needed to make big plays to change the momentum of the game. Jordan was also the best spiker the game has ever seen. The game never ended while Jordan was still on the court.
There is no question of the greatness of Michael Jordan. However, after Jordan’s speech at the Hall of Fame induction ceremony, many writers are attacking the merit of his speech. Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports, a writer I’ve read a few times, wrote an article calling Jordan “mean.” Wojnarowski was shocked at how Jordan brought up the taunts of Byron Russell and Jeff Van Gundy during his speech. Jordan also expelled Leroy Smith, the high school teammate who beat him for last place on his high school varsity team when he was a sophomore. “Worst of all” was the label Wojnarowski used to describe this Jordan move. It was clear that Wojnarowski did not approve of such a stunt by Jordan.
While Adrian Wojnarowski reported fairly well on the facts of the speech, I think he and other sports writers who criticized Jordan’s speech missed an opportunity to see what made Jordan great.
I did not see Jordan’s speech live and had no intention of ever seeing it. I watched the Stockton and Sloan speeches and was very happy with the ceremony. I’d only seen a few Sportscenter clips of Jordan’s speech and thought I’d seen enough. My father, however, convinced me to watch Jordan’s speech. He said, “If I was a coach of any sport, I would copy his speech and force my players to watch it. Jordan explained what made him great.”
Following this recommendation from my dad, I decided to take a look and was not disappointed. What writers like Adrian Wojnarowski missed is what made Jordan great; it is your ability to motivate yourself. While his stunts, stories, and jokes were insignificant, they were also incredibly revealing. Jordan was the most talented player on the court when he played. For most gamers (like LeBron, for example), this will lead to loosening and taking away games. The difference with Jordan is that he found ways to stay hungry and competitive.
Throughout his speech, he went step by step and shared how he stayed focused. His logic was undeniably flawed. What Jordan said made little sense to any sane person. Jordan is different from the rest of us, and he’s definitely mentally wired in a unique way. For example, Jordan felt his college roommate had looked down on him because he was named North Carolina player of the year. Why? The award was presented to his roommate without Jordan having a chance to perform it. What seems like a silly claim by Jordan to most people is really what motivated him throughout college.
In the shared story about Bryan Russell, what many people missed is the long-term memory of Michael Jordan. Bryan Russell at the time of the story was even more of a nobody than he is now. Most fans only remember Russell because he was the guy Michael Jordan hit his last big winning shot on. Russell was a young player, selected in the second round of the draft, who was just trying to make it big in the NBA. Jordan stopped to greet John and Karl, and Russell spoke to Jordan. Stop for a second and think about how many times you have talked to some random friend of a friend. Do you remember him or what he said? Jordan remembered word for word a comment from a player who was fighting at the time, when he wasn’t even playing basketball. A comment Russell probably said without thinking. However, Jordan remembered it, and Stockton, from his reaction to the story, also remembered this conversation. This type of memory of Jordan was haunting and approached in psychotic.
Jordan joked during his speech: “What is it that people don’t know about me?” Oddly enough, he answered that question. It was great because he tried harder than any other player. Jordan would go beyond what a normal person would find acceptable. He found ways to motivate himself and delude himself into believing that he needed to improve his game to prove someone wrong. If that included waiting until his induction speech to blow up a former high school teammate, to prove to the teammate and former high school coach that he was right and they were wrong, then so be it. Michael Jordan will not be stopped by anyone other than Michael Jordan.
Adrian Wojnarowski spoke in his article about the great speeches by Robinson, Stockton, Sloan and Stringer during the ceremony. They all gave great and socially acceptable speeches. Robinson, Stockton, Sloan, and Stringer are great, but they’re not Michael Jordan. Like his talent, Jordan delivered a speech that only he could deliver. He also gave his secret of success to everyone who was listening.
At the end of his speech, he also used his secret to refuel himself with motivational fuel. Any other player who brings up the idea of playing in their fifties would be an outright joke. Jordan seemed very serious when he declared the idea of playing in his fifties. Laughter from the audience at the apparent joke is sure to give Jordan more motivation to succeed in his future goals.
It is normal? No, definitely abnormal. Like Jordan, not like the rest of us.