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Michael Jordan was more of a great competitor than a great athlete

Updated on January 22, 2021
Michael Mannen profile image

Writer on Hubpages and Harvard School of Public Health Alum.

Michael Jordan was a great athlete and an even better competitor. Jordan's competitive nature drove his talents to new heights.

I came across a script written by Michael Jordan, MJ, titled Pain and Motivation.

"Maybe it's my own fault.

Maybe I led you to believe it was easy, when it wasn't.

Maybe I made you think my highlights started at the free-throw line and not in the gym.

Maybe I made you think that every shot I took was a game-winner that my game was built on flash and not fire.

Maybe it's my fault that you didn't see that failure gave me strength that my pain was my motivation.

Maybe I led you to believe that basketball was a God-given gift, and not something I worked for every single day of my life.

Maybe I destroyed the game.

Or maybe, you're just making excuses."

At first glance, what does it make you think of or think about? Jordan said that he worked very hard for his game. At second glance, Jordan is eloquently saying that people did not see the hardships he endured before becoming a star in the NBA player. In the end, he hints that maybe people were just making excuses not to do their best and not to work hard.

Jordan is really discussing the balance between work ethic and talent. While not directly illustrated here, in Jordan's case, he was really a competitor, and he was a very competitive person. He liked to win and is considered by many to be the NBA's most ruthless competitor. It's a balance between what drove his success more his competitive nature or talent. His success was obviously due to both, but I would say that he's even more of a competitor.

The expressions are really poetic if you read it more than once. I think he wants to talk about his success not built just on his talent, and he tried really hard every single day of his life. He is trying to say that you should not make any excuses and try your best.

It's funny that Jordan wrote this script because he is considered to be the most naturally talented player ever. However, that is still very debatable. However, he is definitely top 10, and possibly top 5.

Jordan had unreal physical gifts. He had the hand size of a 7'9" man. He had a 48-inch vertical jump, which is still the highest on record in the NBA. Jordan had larger hands than even Wilt Chamberlain. MJ was a lot physically stronger than other shooting guards as well. Jordan could overpress or shoulder press 225 six times and had a 6'11' wingspan. Jordan during his career as a player was also like 10 pounds heavier than Kobe. He is was the most naturally, physically gifted shooting guard ever. Jordan also had the most potent Jordan range jumper ever and maybe the best post-up moves for a shooting guard.

However, this alone was only a small factor in his greatness as a player. For many, Jordan's superior athletic abilities are what initially sparked the interest in him as a player; however, it was his competitive nature that would soon take the NBA by storm. When Jordan came into the NBA, he was undersized really for his position, he was roughly 195 pounds as a rookie player. He bulked up to take on the Bad Boy Pistons in the Eastern Conference Finals.

"Work Ethic eliminates fear if you put in the work, what are you fearing."

Jordan played in practice like it was a real NBA game. To him, practicing was not just "practice." Jordan's competitive nature drove him to compete equally hard in practice.

It is unbelievable how well he played when you watch his old games and how he was able to take over games. He was, however, a ferocious competitor that wanted to really separate himself from his contemporaries. He's clearly the greatest competitor sports has ever seen. That's the other hidden component of the passage. I would say that he's a more competitor than he is a "talented" player. That would shock many because he is considered by many to be the greatest of all time.

When debating whether or not Jordan is the GOAT or the Greatest Player of All-Time, it's not his championships that should give you pause. Bill Russell has more NBA championships than Jordan. It's not his scoring because Kareem Abdul Jabbar was a better scorer over the entirety of his career and Wilt Chamberlain at his peak is the greatest scorer of all time. It's not his freakish athletic abilities that we have seen mirrored by countless slam dunk championships. It's not his skill because Kobe, Lebron James, Stephen Curry, and Durant have him at least matched in that category. It's not his physical strength; Shaquille O'Neal was bigger and stronger than Jordan. Lebron is also bigger and stronger. And Kawhi Leonard is as good a defender as MJ. The thing that should give any analyst pause is his competitive nature or winning instincts he possessed as a player. That is not as present in any of the players mentioned above. However, the player that comes close is Russell.

When Russell won the 2017 NBA lifetime Achievement Award, he was standing on stage with a cane. Bill Russell was standing on stage with Shaq, Alonzo Mourning, Dikembe Mutombo, David Robinson, and Kareem Abdul Jabbar. Bill Russell looks at all of the great centers on stage, points, and says "I would kick your...." And that pretty much sums up Russell's mentality. He did that every season in the playoffs when he played Chamberlain. He was probably the NBA's second greatest competitor, and third, being Bryant.

Even after leaving basketball, Jordan took his competitive nature off the court and he is a billionaire business person. He made most of his money off the court. He was the president of basketball operations for the Washington Wizards and later became the first player owner when he bought the Charlotte Hornets. Some report that he now owns 90% of the franchise.

Jordan can easily be classified as the most competitive person in the history of sports. However, some players are physically talented and more skilled than him. But with Jordan, there is a competitive factor that James does not have and that Kobe did not fully have mastered. However, Jordan was even more of a competitor than Kobe.

Without Jordan's competitive nature, I would not give pause to labeling Lebron as the GOAT or the Greatest of All-Time. Even Kobe, who was considered by many to be a better shooter than Jordan, might be deemed to be better than Jordan had he not been labeled such a fierce competitor.

When Jordan had to describe his own competitive nature, he described it as the following:

"I am just a competitor to a point, where if you my opponent if I knock you down, I am not picking you up."

When Jordan was asked whether or not he wants to be considered to the GOAT. When he was asked by Michael Wilbon he had this to say

“I don’t want it in a sense because I think that it disrespects Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West, you know all of the guys that prior to me I never had a chance to play against. You know what everybody saying I am I never had a chance to compete against other legends that was prior to me. When I hear it I cringe a little bit.”

For Jordan, even being considered better than another player means competitive against them and beating them. Jordan loved competing against his contemporaries. Pain and motivation is true. He was more of a competitor than a great athlete. But he is still a great athlete.

The author.
The author.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2019 Michael Mannen

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