Certain athletes transcend sports and become cultural icons. Babe Ruth was more than a home run hitter; people who swung a club know about Tiger Woods’ greatness. On the basketball court, however, there was no one better than Michael Jordan. When the Chicago Bulls hit the court, the entire world watched.
While His Airness was obviously talented, his success didn’t come from pure athleticism. Recently, Jordan’s long-time trainer revealed what made him so great.
Michael Jordan’s historic career
Before becoming the greatest player of all-time, Michael Jordan’s basketball career didn’t start on the best foot. He famously failed to make his school’s varsity basketball team when first trying out; after an impressive year with the JV squad and a well-timed growth spurt, he stepped up to the next level the following fall.
After dominating at the high school level, Jordan enrolled at the University of North Carolina, playing under legendary head coach Dean Smith. The young guard made an immediate impact, hitting the game-winning shot to win the National Championship as a freshman; after that moment, he only continued to improve. When he made the jump to the NBA, MJ seemed to get even better.
Jordan and his Chicago Bulls initially had some trouble getting past a tough Detroit Pistons squad, but once they broke through, no one could stop them. His Airness would win six NBA titles in the Windy City; by the time he retired for good, he amassed over 30,000 points and six MVP awards. Today, his official NBA biography calls him “the greatest basketball player of all time.”
What Michael Jordan’s trainer saw behind the scenes
Like any elite athlete, Michael Jordan spent a good deal of time working with his trainer. That means Tim Grover is one of a select few who saw a private side of MJ.
According to Grover, Jordan’s key to success was a laser-like focus. Whether he was playing in a game, practicing with the team, or working out on his own, His Airness only thought about improving on the hardwood.
“Michael would shut down everything outside of basketball and just train,” Grover explained in an interview with Basketball Network. “Three workouts a day: workout, golf break, workout, lunch, golf break, workout, dinner, bed. Every day. No commercial shoots, no promotional tours, no events. Just work.”
“Do the work,” he continued. “There is no privilege greater than the pressure to excel.”
Commitment and fundamentals are hard to beat
While Grover highlighted Jordan’s intense focus, the guard has previously alluded to another key to success: doing the little things until perfection becomes a habit.
“The only way to relieve that pressure is to build your fundamentals, practice them over and over, so when game breaks down, you can handle anything that transpires,” he told ESPN’s Jackie MacMullen.
“People didn’t believe me when I told them I practiced harder than I played, but it was true,” he continued. “That’s where my comfort zone was created. By the time the game came, all I had to do was react to what my body was already accustomed to doing.”
Both of those answers may be slightly different, but, in combination, they explain why Michael Jordan was so successful. When you combine incredible focus with perfect fundamentals, it’s hard to fail at anything.