Michael Jordan was always very image conscious, of course, but his image was always that of the consummate competitor. He was driven. He wanted all of us to know that what he was driven. That what he cared about the absolute most was competition, because through competition comes the valor of winning.
Michael Jordan wanted to win, but he wanted to beat the best to be the best.
The best: Magic, Drexler, Isiah, Ewing, Riley, Barkley, Reggie, Shaq, Payton, Stockton and Malone. He beat them.
Competing to win means fearing not to lose, and that is the major criticism of LeBron right now, in the wake of his Miami move. It’s that, while certainly he has put himself in a position to win, he did it at great sacrifice to the spirit of competition.
Competitiveness means that you want to beat your friends, not take less money to join them. It means that when you run into Paul Pierce in L.A. you wish him well, because you want another shot at beating him in the Finals, as Phil Jackson famously did.
It means that you make a good friend at the Olympics, but then you try to rip his heart out in the Western Conference Finals, as Kobe and Carmelo did. You don’t plot to team up with him so that you can hang out on the beach together and make it look easy.
The summer of LeBron is notable for so many reasons, but the one that sticks out for me most is fear. Fear of taking the challenge. Fear of leading your hometown to its first ever title; fear of leading a mecca like New York from the doldrums back to glory; fear of taking up a mantle in Chicago bequeathed by the best player ever to play the sport. fear of saying no to easy vices; fear of saying no to good friends. Fear of failure.
It made me think of this particular Jordan commercial- sober and surmising. What made Jordan commercials so good was that they were all angles on what was most important about the product, and what was most important about the product was what was most important to the man. Most people consider that to have been winning, but I assure you it was not. Winning was the desired conclusion. What was most important was the competition.