Jordan's hall of fame induction speech is getting a lot of negative reviews, and it seems that people didn't understand what they were hearing...
Just to let people know, I am not a Michael Jordan apologist. In fact, I hate Michael Jordan for what he did to the Utah Jazz in the NBA finals. He pushed off on Bryon Russell! The only vindication I have is every time Jordan's shot is replayed from the 1998 finals it proves he cheated.
Yet, as much as it pains me to say it, by far Michael Jordan is the best player in the history of the NBA.
Jordan was unstoppable. Every time you watched Michael Jordan play you knew you were watching something very special. Jordan had the ability to raise his game to any occasion. If he needed to be a facilitator, then he was the perfect facilitator.
If he needed to be a scorer, then you couldn't stop him from getting his points. Jordan had an understanding for 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 finisher the game has ever seen. The game was never over as long as Jordan was still on the court.
There is no questioning the greatness of Michael Jordan. Yet, 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 have read a few times, wrote an article calling Jordan, "petty."
Wojnarowski was amazed at how Jordan brought up taunts by Byron Russell and Jeff Van Gundy during his speech. Jordan also flew out Leroy Smith, the high school teammate who beat him out for the final spot on his high school varsity team when he was a Sophomore. "Worst of all," was the tag which Wojnarowski used to describe this move by Jordan. It was clear that Wojnarowski didn't approve of such a stunt by Jordan.
While Adrian Wojnarowski reported the facts of the speech quite well, I feel that he, and other sports writers criticizing Jordan's speech, missed a chance to see what made Jordan great.
I didn't watch Jordan's speech live, and I didn't intend to ever view it. I watched Stockton and Sloan's speeches and was very happy with the ceremony. I had only seen a few clips from Sportscenter from Jordan's speech and thought I had seen enough. My father though convinced me to watch Jordan's speech.
He said, "If I were a coach of any sport, I would copy his speech and force my players to watch it. Jordan explained what made him great."
On this recommendation from my dad I decided to watch, and wasn't disappointed. What writers like Adrian Wojnarowski missed is what made Jordan great; it is his ability to motivate himself. While his stunts, stories, and jokes were petty, they were also incredibly revealing.
Jordan was the most gifted player on the court whenever he was playing. For most players (like LeBron for example) this will lead to slacking off, and taking games off. The difference with Jordan is he found ways to stay hungry, and competitive.
Throughout his speech he went step by step and shared how he stay 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 is definitely wired mentally in an unique way. For example, Jordan felt his roommate in college had slighted him because he was named North Carolina player of the year.
Why? The award was given to his roommate without Jordan having a chance to play him. What appears to most people to be a silly statement by Jordan, is really what motivated him throughout college.
In the story shared 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 that Michael Jordan hit his final great game winning shot on.
Russell was a young player, a second round draft pick, who was just trying to make it in the NBA. Jordan stopped by to say hello to John and Karl, and Russell talked 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 remark by a then scrub of a player, when he wasn't even playing basketball. A comment which Russell probably said without thinking. Yet, Jordan remembered it, and Stockton from his reaction to the story also remembered this conversation. This kind of recollection from Jordan was eerie, and boarded on psychotic.
Jordan joked during his speech, "What don't people know about me?" Strange enough he answered that question. He was great because he pushed himself more than any other player. Jordan would go further than what a normal person would find acceptable.
He found ways to motivate himself, and trick himself into thinking he needed to improve his game to prove someone wrong. If that included waiting until his induction speech to fly out an old high school teammate, to prove to the teammate and old high school coach that he was right and they were wrong, then so be it. Michael Jordan will not be stopped by anyone but Michael Jordan.
Adrian Wojnarowski talked in his article about the great speeches of Robinson, Stockton, Sloan, and Stringer during the ceremony. All gave great and socially acceptable speeches. Robinson, Stockton, Sloan, and Stringer are all great, but they are no Michael Jordan. Just like his talent, Jordan gave a speech which only he could give. He also gave his secret to success to all those who were listening.
At the end of his speech he also used his secret to again give himself motivational fuel. Any other player mentioning the idea of playing in their fifties would be a clear joke. Jordan looked dead serious when he stated the idea of playing in his fifties. The laughter from the audience at the apparent joke will surely give Jordan more motivation to succeed at his future goals.
It is normal? No, definitely abnormal. Just like Jordan, not like the rest of us.
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