I love Michael Jordan. Well, maybe lust is a better word.
I don't remember exactly when it started, but somewhere in the late 1980s, I became obsessed with #23. I can't say I was a huge basketball fan, but Michael Jordan had me captivated and never lost my attention.
Not only do I love him as an athlete and greatest basketball player ever, but as an inspiration as well. Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team. He's missed thousands of shots over the years. He's overcome horrible tragedy in losing his father, his best friend, mid-career. No matter what, Michael Jordan gave the game of basketball his absolute best, scoring some of his highest per game point totals when he had the flu. He kept his dream alive and never let it go.
Why is Michael Jordan the greatest? Certainly because he has a gift and talent that few people in this world have. But more than that, he practiced harder and in a more focused way than anyone else. He was committed. He never played half-assed.
One of my favorite Michael Jordan quotes of all time speaks to this "whatever it takes" commitment.
"I've missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I've been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed." - Michael JordanMore quotes here.
I got to watch him play in person just a handful of times in Washington DC. One of the most memorable was the last game of the 72-10 season in 1995-96. Of course, the Bulls went on to win their 4th NBA Championship that June, on my birthday. It was also Father's Day and the first championship after he returned from his 18-month retirement and I'll never forget watching him drop to his knees on the hardwood clutching the ball and then lying on the locker room floor crying and saying he'd won it for his Dad. Quite a few of those championships came either on my birthday or were celebrated on my birthday. I always believed that happened just for me.
And come on, didn't we all want to "Be Like Mike"? Heck, every time I pick up a Gatorade now, I still think about this commercial.
Congratulations on your enshrinement into the NBA Hall of Fame, Michael! No one deserves it more.
UPDATE 8:03pm: The enshrinement just ended and Michael's speech was amazing. His closing comment is my new favorite Michael Jordan quote: "Limits like fears are often just an illusion." You got that right. Here's the Chicago Tribune's coverage of the ceremony.