One of the things Michael Jordan did exceptionally well was interacting with his fans, especially the younger ones that looked up to him growing up. He was also often seen at various charity events. He wanted to use his influence and name to promote a specific cause he believed in and bring added value to the community or a particular person by dedicating his time.
Eric Barber is one of those kids that had the opportunity to meet Jordan and even play against him 1-on-1. Despite his disability and the fact, he was in a wheelchair, one of his biggest wishes was to play against Jordan. Back in the ’80s, there was a show on NBC called ‘Sports Fantasy’ , and they made Eric’s request come to life.
My sports fantasy was to meet Michael Jordan. Then I changed it and said I want to play Michael 1-on-1, but he would also be in the wheelchair.Eric Barber, via Paralympic Games
Jordan accepted the challenge, and Eric received the opportunity of a lifetime, which he took full advantage of and is still one of the few people on this planet that can say the beat Jordan 1-on-1. A basketball game would be nothing with a bit of trash-talking, and Eric was the one that initiated it before his long-waited match against Jordan.
He is not scaring me at all. It takes a lot more to intimidate me, and he can talk all this trash on TV, but we are going to get at it when we get on the floor.Michael Jordan, via
Even though it took some time for Jordan to adjust to playing in a wheelchair, Eric said it didn’t take him too long to get a grasp of it, but he already built up a lead and eventually won the game.
The game started, and I got a really good lead on him. He was trying to maneuver as he was taking these really little short strolls, and his turns were pretty sluggish. After a while, he picked up the sport. At one point, I was up 16 to 4, but the final was 21 to 14, and that will give you a little indicator of how competitive, what drive and how quickly he picked up and learned the game.Eric Barber, via Paralympic Games
The fact Jordan came out and accepted the challenge of playing in a wheelchair inspired Eric in such a way that he became a 4-time US Paralympian. Seeing Jordan prepare and understand how to play in a wheelchair made Eric realize that is the correct way of handling everything life throws at you, and if you give your best, usually good things will come your way.
I had an opportunity to cross paths with him and seeing him just getting into the wheelchair, going back and forth with it, trying to figure out how do I maneuver this thing to be successful. It gave me motivation and still does.Eric Barber, via Paralympic Games