Michael Jordan’s competitive nature made him sacrifice friendships for winning

Michael Jordan’s competitive nature made him sacrifice friendships for winning

Michael Jordan is known to be the greatest basketball player to have ever lived. Anointed with the name “His Airness”, it was Michael’s aerial exploits that captivated the hearts of basketball fans all over the world. However, Jordan’s unmatchable will to win is what left him a place in those hearts forever. MJ loved the game of basketball, and he loved to compete, his legend is one of extreme determination mixed with a rare set of God-given talents. 

Because of his dedication to his craft, Michael was always the leader on teams he played for, which meant he was the one most accountable for the Bulls’ performance on the court. The Chicago Bulls of the 1990s made beautiful music on the basketball court, and according to their coach Phil Jackson, this chemistry was evident off the court thanks to their Australian Center Luc Longley.

“There was a real strong community then, built around him (Luc Longley). Michael wasn’t totally included in it because of his isolation, but everybody else was invited.”

Phil Jackson, Australian Story

The best teams in sports do not have to like each other, like the Los Angeles Lakers of the early 2000s. The Lakers were stacked with talent and had the perfect combination of players on the court; it later became evident that the personal relationships between teammates were not as seamless. The Bulls were the opposite of that, and usually when you spend time with each other enjoying the company of your teammates, on-court success is likely to be more attainable. 

“I wish I could have laid back and enjoyed it as much as everybody else, but that didn’t guarantee us success. That doesn’t say we are going to win, so I had to do what I had to do.”

Michael Jordan, Australian Story

Michael is right, success is never guaranteed, and all you can do is try your best to come up with the most effective path to achieve it. Perhaps Michael could have been “one of the guys” and still lead the team to six championships, but he did not see that as the best way to set an example for his teammates. If he hung out with the guys often after games or practices, how would he be able to detach himself from the ruthlessness he would look to show them as a sign of his leadership? It just wasn’t going to work.

These days we celebrate leaders like LeBron James, who take the opposite approach of what MJ did back in the day. LeBron is more inclusive and wants to be a part of the regular group – Michael believed that distancing himself from his teammates off the court would allow him to hold them accountable when they were on the court together.

When people say the NBA is soft these days, this could be what they mean. Winning matters today as much as it did in the 90s, but at the end of the day, it seems to come down to what one is willing to give up to win, being the measure of one’s greatness. Sure, people love being teammates with Bron, but people also love winning just as much, so is it better to be feared than to be loved? The answer to that may be as simple as, would you rather have four championships or six?