Michael Jordan wasn’t one of the best NBA players of all time by accident. He worked hard, stayed late, and did what he needed to do. While this is not different than most NBA players, it’s hard to say Jordan operated like every other player. Former teammate Steve Kerr spoke about what made Jordan different as he reminisced about their time together.
Michael Jordan’s mindset
It is well-documented that Jordan was not one of the easiest players to get along with. Although he was never known as a bad teammate, the notoriously feisty players had no qualms calling out others. Were he not as good as he was, this might not have worked.
One of these instances, the oft-shared one that frames Jordan as a player cut from the varsity team, ignores the fact that the coach wasn’t disrespecting him but following protocol which almost always kept freshman players off the varsity team.
The fact of the matter was that Jordan would do whatever it took to win a basketball game. He would pump up his teammates by lying to them about something an opponent said; call them out in practice or call them out in the middle of a game.
As someone who won six championships in the ’90s, it’s hard to argue with results. This was when Kerr arrived as he talked about the legendary mind of Jordan.
Steve Kerr on Jordan
In an episode of Players Only on NBA TV, Kerr spoke about what he thought made Jordan different:
“I think, just the will to win and the way that manifested itself in practice,” Kerr said. “Every day was a battle. It really was. Whether it was a scrimmage, shooting drill, [it] didn’t matter. He wanted to win so badly, and that established the entire culture for the team. Here’s the greatest, most-talented player on earth, who is working harder than anybody.”
Everything about the Bulls was about Michael Jordan. He had power over the team. Players who were added to the team were expected to help him. This wasn’t a case of a prima donna demanding things he couldn’t follow through on, however, as he got results.
Kerr has spoken at great length about how Jordan took some getting used to, like the time he punched him in the face, but ultimately changed him for the better.
Can there be another Jordan?
Basketball is constantly seeking the next Jordan. First, it was Kobe, who emulated Jordan’s mindset and game to an astonishing extent. Next, it was LeBron James, who many believe has surpassed him. Now, it may be Zion Williamson, who has not yet stepped foot on a basketball court.
The fact of the matter is that it would be hard to emulate what Jordan did for the game of basketball. Not only his talent nearly unmatched, but his mindset was original and not an emulation.
Every player needs his path to an NBA career, and Jordan’s path made him the best. While we can argue about who the next Jordan will be, the best course of action is to appreciate a man who truly was a unicorn when it came to the NBA.
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