Today is Michael Jordan’s 50th birthday. If you have known me for any length of time you know how highly I regard the guy. When I was younger, it bordered on obsession. He has made a historical impact far outside of his sport and redefined what it means to be dominant. During his heyday there was no one like Michael. People occasionally beat Usain. People beat Gretzky. There is debate over who’s the greatest artist or musician. But there’s little debate over who’s the greatest basketball player of all time. For 10 years MJ was unstoppable. During the 90s if Jordan laced up his kicks to start the season he was carrying home a trophy at the end. He so clearly separated himself from other would-be greats (Olajuwon, Robinson, Johnson, Malone, Stockton, Barkley, etc) that you almost felt bad for them. While he was playing I admired him for the same reasons most people did…..killer competitiveness, athleticism, and sheer dominance. But now that he’s retired, and I’ve moved on to several entrepreneurial pursuits I’ve come to see that one of his most admirable traits was trying without fear of failure. Consider the following from a man who is arguably the most competitive athlete ever:
- In his second year, Jordan broke his foot and missed 64 games. But instead of calling the season a wash, he came back to play the last 15 games of the regular season and went on to produce one of the most famous playoff performances of all time against the eventual champion Boston Celtics.
- Although known mostly as a dunker at the time (backed up by 2 Slam Dunk titles), MJ entered the NBA 3 point contest at the All-Star game. This time he wasn’t successful and went on to record the all-time lowest score in the history of the contest.
- MJ quit basketball at the height of his career to pursue a career in baseball, a sport he hadn’t played since high school. While many viewed this as a failed attempt, Jordan reached a level many who play their entire life could ever dream of achieving and he quit (baseball to return to basketball) on his own terms.
- MJ returned to the NBA following his attempt at baseball. What again started as a failure (see the loss to the Orlando Magic in ’95) turned in to an overwhelming success as Jordan went on to a second 3 peat performance that cemented him as the greatest athlete of all time.
- After a second retirement, Jordan returned again with the Washington Wizards. This time he wasn’t nearly as successful but it didn’t matter. He ended up taking over top spot on the NBA’s All-Time scoring list and showed some of the league’s young guns what love for the game was all about.
Sometimes he failed. Most of the time he succeeded. In the end though, one wouldn’t have come without the other.