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Michael Jordan Was More of a Great Competitor Than a Great Athlete

Updated on December 25, 2019
Michael Mannen profile image

Sports analyst for fun. Check out my podcast: Above the Court Podcast

MJ was a great athlete and an even better competitor. MJ'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? MJ said that he worked very hard for his game. At second glance, MJ 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.

MJ is really discussing the balance between work ethic and talent. While not directly illustrated here, in MJ'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 MJ 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.

MJ 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. MJ had larger hands than even Wilt Chamberlain. MJ was a lot physically stronger than other shooting guards as well. MJ could over press or shoulder press 225 six times and had a 6'11' wingspand. MJ was also like 10 pounds heavier than Kobe. He is was the most naturally, physically gifted shooting guard ever. MJ also had the most potent MJ 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, MJ's athletic abilities are what initially what sparked the interested by many; however, it was his competitive nature that would soon take the NBA by storm. When MJ 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, practice was not just "practice." MJ'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 for 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 MJ is the GOAT or Greatest of All-Time, it's not his championships that should give you pause. Bill Russell has more. 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 KD have him at least matched in that category. It's not his physical strength; Shaq was bigger and stronger. Lebron is bigger and stronger. Kawhi Leonard is as good a defender as MJ. The thing that should give you pause was his competitive nature or killer instincts. That was not as present in any of the players mentioned above. However, the player that comes close is Bill Russell.

When Bill 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 you as#. That pretty much sums up Bill Russell's mentality. He did that every year in the playoffs to Wilt Chamberlain. He was probably the games second greatest competitor, and third, being Kobe Bryant.

Even after leaving basketball, MJ 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. He now owns I believe 90% of the franchise.

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

Without Jordan's competitive nature, I would not give pause to labeling Lebron James as the GOAT or Greatest of All-Time. Even Kobe, who was considered by many to be a better shooter than MJ, 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 MJ 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 MJ, even being considered better than another player means competitive against them and beating them. MJ 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.


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