The Chicago Bulls dominated their league like no other team in no other sport during the 1990’s. They won 6 NBA championships, an astounding record.
I just finished reading the outstanding book Playing for Keeps: Michael Jordan and the World He Made. It’s an insightful look into what made Jordan and his Bulls so special.
Here are some of their secrets:
1) Hard work. Jordan came to practice before anyone and left last. This got him from being rejected for the high school varsity to dominating the pros.
2) Coachability. Anyone who coached Jordan, even in baseball, said he was unusually coachable. His willingness to learn from others, rather than think he knew everything, set him apart.
Consider that for a player of his stature, it would be easy to dismiss a coach’s suggestion! But he didn’t.
Even the quirky Dennis Rodman listened carefully to coach Phil Jackson’s lessons.
3) Love of the game. Both Jordan and Scottie Pippen stood out for truly loving basketball.
Jordan even had a highly unusual clause in his contract. He could stop at any basketball court in the world, any time, and play a pickup game.
And he did so, frequently! I like imagining Jordan pulling up at a playground in a fancy car, lacing up his sneakers, and heading out onto the court.
I just wouldn’t want to have to guard him!
This type of clause is highly unusual due to the risk of injury, but Jordan insisted on it.
It’s hard to work at something so intensely for so many years if you don’t love it! And that’s what it takes to excel.
4) Ability to see others strengths, not just their weaknesses.
Jackson was upset when Pippen refused to play at the end of the Eastern Conference Finals. But he didn’t let that incident sour him on Scottie as a player.
Instead, he viewed it in the context of all of Scottie’s great work over the years. Even the exacting Jordan became more aware of his teammates’ strengths over time.
This is an area I struggle with. If someone does one thing wrong, I tend to view them negatively, forgetting all their great work.
I plan to take a lesson from Coach Jackson on this in the future!
5) Never giving up. Jordan was famously cut by his high school team.
Rodman didn’t even make the team at all. And Pippen started college basketball at a no-name school as the team equipment manager.
These are not people you would think would’ve ever even made it to the NBA, much less won 6 championships.
Their perseverance made the difference!
Check out this excellent book along with the addictive Netflix series The Last Dance. Even if you’re not a basketball fan, you can learn a lot from the Bulls about excellence in any field!
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