The Gospel Coalition

If you've watched ESPN at any point in the last week, you know Michael Jordan just turned 50. With six NBA titles, five MVPs, ten scoring titles, 14 All-Star appearances, and many other feats posterized on my childhood bedroom wall, Jordan's legacy on the basketball court is unmatched. But life off the court, particularly since his final retirement in 2003, hasn't been so pristine.

In anticipation of Jordan's 50th birthday, ESPN senior writer Wright Thompson spent some time with Number 23. The product is an Outside the Lines article titled "Michael Jordan Has Not Left the Building," a fascinating behind-the-scenes glimpse into the mind of the man who revolutionized the world of sports.


Unquenchable Fire


Thompson's piece pulsates with the sense that Jordan isn't happy. "I would give up everything now to go back and play the game of basketball," the Hall of Famer confesses. When asked how he replaces it, Jordan simply states, "You don't. You learn to live with it."

For almost three decades on basketball's supreme stage, Jordan lived for the next challenge, the next challenger. Naysayers became friends, for they brought the nightly fuel that reignited his drive to perform, to conquer, to vindicate his name. This insatiable drive to prove himself propelled Jordan to the pinnacle of the sporting world—and motivated him to remain there. Even today, Thompson writes, he cares what his critics say. "He needs to know, a needle for a hungry vein."
Jordan might have stopped playing basketball, but the rage is still there. The fire remains, which is why he searches for release, on the golf course or at a blackjack table, why he spends so much time and energy on [the Charlotte Bobcats] and why he dreams of returning to play.

The man has left the court, but the addictions won't leave the man.

Even 'Yahweh' Ages


Jordan's surroundings only reinforce a perception of otherworldly status. Thompson remarks:
Jordan is at the center of several overlapping universes, at the top of the billion-dollar Jordan Brand at Nike, of the Bobcats, of his own company, with dozens of employees and contractors on the payroll. In case anyone in the inner circle forgets who's in charge, they only have to recall the code names given to them by the private security team assigned to overseas trips. Estee is Venom. George is Butler. Yvette is Harmony. Jordan is called Yahweh—a Hebrew word for God.

Yahweh. I am who I am. I will be what I will be. Not exactly the sort of nickname that fosters meekness.

"My ego is so big now that I expect certain things," Jordan admits. But, as Thompson observes, this is a natural consequence of life at the very top. "Jordan is used to being the most important person in every room he enters and, going a step further, in the lives of everyone he meets. . . . People cater to his every whim."

Imagine that life for a moment. Put yourself in his shoes (Air Jordans, of course). You can't recall the last time you weren't the most important person in the room. No matter where on Planet Earth you go, you're king. Thirty years and counting. What would that recognition do to someone? To you?

The Flicker that Fades


Such an abnormal existence brings certain abnormal hopes, promises, expectations. As Thompson observes:
Most people live anonymous lives, and when they grow old and die, any record of their existence is blown away. They're forgotten, some more slowly than others, but eventually it happens to virtually everyone. Yet for the few people in each generation who reach the very pinnacle of fame and achievement, a mirage flickers: immortality. They come to believe in it. Even after Jordan is gone, he knows people will remember him. Here lies the greatest basketball player of all time. That's his epitaph.

There's a fable about returning Roman generals who rode in victory parades through the streets of the capital; a slave stood behind them, whispering in their ears, "All glory is fleeting." Nobody does that for professional athletes. Jordan couldn't have known that the closest he'd get to immortality was during that final walk off the court. . . . All that can happen in the days and years that follow is for the shining monument he built to be chipped away, eroded. His self-esteem has always been, as he says, "tied directly to the game." Without it, he feels adrift. Who am I? What am I doing? For the past 10 years, since retiring for the third time, he has been running, moving as fast as he could, creating distractions, distance.

In his supercilious 2009 Hall of Fame speech, Jordan called the game of basketball his "refuge," the "place where I've gone when I needed to find comfort and peace." Three years later, the restlessness remains.

It turns out the voracious drive that turned a shy North Carolina youngster into a household name comes with a price tag. And as the flicker of immortality fades, Jordan stares in the mirror, wondering where to turn. "How can I enjoy the next 20 years without so much of this consuming me?" he ponders. "How can I find peace away from the game of basketball?"

From Chicago to Calvary


As a Christian, it's easy to read a piece like Thompson's and feel discouraged, even disgusted, by Jordan's egotism. Yet as psychologists clamor to diagnose Jordan's condition, we feel no surprise. The distance between him and us is, after all, uncomfortably slim. We want to be the most important person in every room; he is. As the apostle might say, who is sufficient for these things?

In the world, status is tethered to performance. It's the same in the gospel. The difference, however, is that our status as believers is not tethered to our performance, but Christ's. Only the gospel can offer the resources to combat our pride, expose our emptiness, and flood our hearts with peace.

"How can I find peace away from the game of basketball?" the aging legend asks.

Michael, you never had peace. Triumph and fame, yes, but not peace. James Naismith invented a game that brought you a sense of purpose, of value, of calm. But it was only that—a sense, a counterfeit of the real thing. You will never find life outside the game for the same reason you never found life in it. It's not there.

The peace you seek isn't available on a basketball court or a golf course but on a little hill outside Jerusalem. There, Yahweh incarnate hung in the place of sinners—wannabe Yahwehs like you and like me.

You've gained the world and found it lacking, Mike. Don't lose your soul.


Comments:

Only Christ

November 26, 2013 at 01:34 AM

[…] Matt Smethurst on Michael Jordan /* […]

smthomas23

May 19, 2013 at 01:48 PM

This is an excellent written piece from the perspective of a Christian who has found the 'peace' that eludes those folk of the world.

Ecclesiastes 1:14 'I observed everything going on under the sun, and really, it is all meaningless--like chasing the wind.'

No matter who you are and no matter what you do... the need for peace and solace will elude ALL of us... if we don't chose Christ.

What is certain is Mike has gained the world... what is uncertain is that will he lose his soul?

Don’t Worry, No One Will Remember You

March 5, 2013 at 11:08 PM

[...] Christians are fighting this temptation through blog posts and books encouraging obscurity and self-forgetfulness. We know that the pursuit of greatness and glory is empty, meaningless, and will not bring peace. [...]

[...] Christians are fighting this temptation through blog posts and books encouraging obscurity and self-forgetfulness. We know that the pursuit of greatness and glory is empty, meaningless, and will not bring peace. [...]

Peter Kutuzov

March 4, 2013 at 08:39 PM

Absolutely. It's not easy to be consumed with your Lord more than you are with doing his work.

Ryan

January 9, 2014 at 09:39 AM

Nothing to contribute, I'm just wondering why an article that's nearly a year old has suddenly seen a massive revival.

Nehemiah

January 8, 2014 at 11:44 AM

This reminds of a certain that I like:



If I gained the world, but lost the Savior,
Were my life worth living for a day?
Could my yearning heart find rest and comfort
In the things that soon must pass away?
If I gained the world, but lost the Savior,
Would my gain be worth the lifelong strife?
Are all earthly pleasures worth comparing
For a moment with a Christ-filled life?

Had I wealth and love in fullest measure,
And a name revered both far and near,
Yet no hope beyond, no harbor waiting,
Where my storm-tossed vessel I could steer;
If I gained the world, but lost the Savior,
Who endured the cross and died for me,
Could then all the world afford a refuge,
Whither, in my anguish, I might flee?

O what emptiness!—without the Savior
’Mid the sins and sorrows here below!
And eternity, how dark without Him!
Only night and tears and endless woe!
What, though I might live without the Savior,
When I come to die, how would it be?
O to face the valley’s gloom without Him!
And without Him all eternity!

O the joy of having all in Jesus!
What a balm the broken heart to heal!
Ne’er a sin so great, but He’ll forgive it,
Nor a sorrow that He does not feel!
If I have but Jesus, only Jesus,
Nothing else in all the world beside—
O then everything is mine in Jesus;
For my needs and more He will provide.


Source: http://www.hymnal.net/en/hymn.php/nt/1079#ixzz2ppWc9xZ3

G R Van Leer Sr

January 8, 2014 at 08:17 PM

Those Pastors sought the glory and not the presence of God. Anything you pursue in this world will always leave you feeling empty. Seek first the Kingdom.

Barret

January 8, 2014 at 07:33 AM

Both Jordan and David Robinson were inducted in 2009. The difference between their speeches reveal their character pretty spot on.

dave miers

January 8, 2014 at 04:29 PM

well written, thanks.

Still Wanna Be Like Mike? | Walker FamilyLife

January 6, 2014 at 11:46 AM

[…] friend just made me aware of this article from the Gospel Coalition blog about Michael Jordan and his struggle for peace and significance since he left the game of […]

David Olson

January 6, 2014 at 04:05 PM

“Just Like Michael Jordan!”
In the mid-90’s I led a group of people on a mission trip to Haiti that included significant work at a couple hospitals and a school (Quisqueya Christian School). At Grace Children’s Hospital in Port-au-Prince I recall an incident that related to this article and the legacy of Michael Jordan. We had brought many shoes, along with other supplies for the hospital, including a few pairs of Nike Air Jordans from a friend who owns a shoe store.
One of the patients in the hospital was a boy of about eight years of age who had come in severely malnourished and with TB a month or two earlier and had recovered to return to being a robust young boy with a zeal for life, a contagious personality, and an endearing smile. The nurses and other staff were very fond of him. The day of his discharge from the hospital, he was given a new set of clothes to wear home, including… yes, a pair of the Air Jordans. I was outside working with another of our group members on repairing equipment on the playground at the hospital on that typical warm and sunny morning. The normal hum of noise was in the background from children and staff in the hospital with its perpetually opened shutters, the substantially open air clinic that treated hundreds of patients each day, and people coming and going in all directions.
All of a sudden, out of the hospital burst this young boy dressed in his new clothes running and jumping around the sidewalk through the playground. At the top of his lungs, he was shouting in Creole, “Just like Michael Jordan! Just like Michael Jordan!” Time and again he shouted that with exuberance. He had something in common with the man at the pinnacle of the world of sports and renowned throughout the world. It was a reminder to me of the enormous popularity and impact people like Michael Jordan have throughout the world. As a result, we are tempted to believe and many people assume that if they can achieve even a portion of that kind of success, then they will be happy, but life does not work that way.
This article is a good reminder that the success that provides fame, wealth, and all other sorts of things in this earthly life does not in itself bring happiness. In the end, three things remain…faith, hope, and love, and the greatest of these is love.

John

January 6, 2014 at 03:08 AM

When i was about 7 year old i started to watch this terrific basketball player demonstrate true passion and hard work to the game of basketball. And i believe God knew what he was doing in the life of Michael Jordan. Giving Michael a chance and ability to share what God can do through a man. Even though that may not be the case in his eyes or may be it is. But we all have to remember to stop and pay attention to the one who permits gifts like Jordan's. To be able to shine bright, so the next person can have some type of hope and become great. God has used this Man to display His Glory not Jordan's or his shoes,but the true Yahweh. You are a special man Jordan don's misunderstand your God given gift.

Be Like Mike? | Insomniac memos

January 5, 2014 at 12:52 PM

[…] sobering account of a life that has some unexpected negative twists. A cautionary […]

Donald " The Voice" Gadson

January 4, 2014 at 06:27 AM

Matt, phenomenal write up. Very , Very Good.

Brian Butcher

January 3, 2014 at 09:27 PM

I found the final paragraph to be a bit harsh. I grew up watching and loving Michael Jordan. I think he is my only real sports hero out of my market. He is still the most amazing athlete I have seen in any sport during my lifetime. I feel like he deserves any good that comes his way, and I think with all his success, he keeps a prety humble dimeanor. This lefty would still want to be, like Mike.

Deoceline penero

January 3, 2014 at 07:29 AM

In Christ alone I place my trust and find the glory in the power of the cross. Peace is Jesus! Michael J. God loves you!

[…] 4* http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc/2013/02/21/when-greatness-meets-emptiness-michael-jordan-at-… […]

John S

January 3, 2014 at 02:51 PM

Reminds me of Tom Brady, and he is still playing. "'God, it's got to be more than this.' I mean this isn't, this can't be what it's all cracked up to be." What's the answer? "I wish I knew. I wish I knew," says Brady.

though I don't think we'd all want to be the most important person in the room. Each heart has it's own unique god of self.

paige

January 24, 2014 at 12:43 AM

I want to start by saying great article, great content and very eye opening. So, who doesn't love or recognize the man who represented that number 23 bulls jersey? or your love for MJ might have come from a little 90's gem by the name of space jam. Either way, it's pretty crazy to think that one of the greats struggles with finding happiness and fulfillment.. He gained the world and still found it lacking.. this article shows just how fame and success, no matter how lavish, does not and will not secure a lasting and satisfying happiness. I think this shouts that our hearts were made for something much bigger. C.S. Lewis says it best, “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”

I have to admit, I'm not a fan of the title of this article.. in all love I took it as a little pretentious. After reading this article my heart felt heavy for Michael Jordan and to answer the question, “Do you still want to be like Mike?” Well no I don’t want to be like Mike, but I have to be honest.. I am. I think in ways big or small, different or similar.. we all are like Mike, human. We all are at a constant battle with the ways of the world. The only difference between Mike and me is that by the Grace of God I realized that I have a Savior that came for sinners like me, like Mike, and he died a perfect death so we could be set free.

In love I would say to Mike, no amount of fame or success needs to be achieved to have what God sent Jesus on this earth to achieve. You might feel empty now, but my friend seek the Lord as earnestly as you are seeking the things of this world and God will fill your hearth so full with joy and cover you with his amazing grace any emptiness you had will be a reminder that you were once lost, and in your fullness you will see you are found in the loving arms of our God that will eternally satisfy your soul.

One more quote, I feel like its rather fitting.. "Talent is God given. Be humble. Fame is man-given. Be grateful. Conceit is self-given. Be careful." -John Wooden

Katie S

January 23, 2014 at 10:30 AM

I find the repeated references to the "most important person in the room" interesting. While I understand what people mean by that, believing that lie is one of the biggest issues in the first place. He isn't the most important person in the room, and if he had rejected that title over the years, he'd be happier now. Of course, not truly at peace without Christ.

AndyM

January 21, 2014 at 08:07 PM

Whenever someone famous is on the decline, or when they die, I'm very aware that none of their successes that they are known publicly for will count on the day of judgement. If they didn't know Jesus as saviour, they may as well have been a street sweeper or a collector of dog leavings for all the good it will do them in front of God.

This normally makes me feel sad, not because I'm wonderful or part of the in crowd, but because of the ultimate futility of a life led without christ.

AndyM

January 21, 2014 at 07:59 PM

"most" people. Not all.

Matt Smethurst

January 2, 2014 at 08:58 AM

Thanks for these links, Mzungu and Andrew. Good stuff.

Andrew Orlovsky

January 2, 2014 at 08:47 AM

Excellent, I also love how Voddie Bauchman contrasts the two. David Robinson is truly a man who can still honor God despite being a celebrity.

http://www.gracefamilybaptist.net/voddie-baucham-ministries/blog/be-david-not-mike-2009-09//

Charlie Fadipe

January 13, 2014 at 08:15 AM

Brilliant Article.

Someone send it to him!! Please!!!

Ryne

January 11, 2014 at 12:13 AM

Look Jordan is allowed to be unhappy just like everyone else. The only difference is that he's such an iconic personality that whenever even a hint comes out about it, it's a big deal. But as people who are close to him (he is a man who values his privacy very much, and who can blame him) will tell you, he is also a person of faith. And people of faith are allowed to be unhappy sometimes. Read the late writings of Mother Theresa sometime, she struggled with severe depression. This article seems (to me at least, but perhaps i am missing something) to be implying that there is something wrong with Jordan as a person, simply because he is occasionally unhappy.

Ryan

January 10, 2014 at 11:29 AM

Not that it's a bad article, mind you, I actually rather appreciated it.

Ryan

January 10, 2014 at 11:27 AM

That one kind of makes sense. At least, it's somewhat relevant to the Duck Dynasty kerfuffle that took the internet hostage for a couple days. But this one? The last time I heard from Michael Jordan was Space Jam. Why the sudden interest?

Matt Smethurst

January 10, 2014 at 11:07 AM

I'm not sure, Ryan. Interestingly, Trevin Wax's 2011 "How I Wish the Homosexuality Debate Would Go" article (http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/trevinwax/2011/10/18/how-i-wish-the-homosexuality-debate-would-go) has gotten so much fresh traffic in the last month that it's now the best-read piece of all time at TGC.

John

January 10, 2014 at 10:41 AM

Then how come we remember William Wallace?

[...] When I was a younger man there was a popular slogan surrounding Jordan, “I want to be like Mike.” Today, I DO NOT WANT to be like Mike. I was not saved to long for past glory or to try and fill the void of past accomplishments with fleeting possessions or power. I want to live a once in a lifetime life, but I want to do it with my eyes fixed on the greater glory stored up for me in heaven and imperishable in Christ. (Here is another great article to read concerning Michael Jordan, http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc/2013/02/21/when-greatness-meets-emptiness-michael-jordan-at-...) [...]

Larry

February 26, 2013 at 09:16 AM

The purpose of life is not basketball. It is through knowing and having a relationship with God and his Son Jesus Christ, where purpose will be found. MJ may have been one of the most valuable players on the court...know that YOU will ALWAYS be an MVP in the eyes of God.

Julie

February 26, 2013 at 06:49 AM

If MJ likes to read what is written about him, then perhaps he will read this article and come to faith!

Kris Habacon

February 26, 2013 at 01:57 AM

so true

[...] “Do You Still Want to Be Like Mike?” (Matt Smethurst) [...]

TheMisfit

February 25, 2013 at 09:49 PM

While I see where you're coming from - I'd say this word of caution. This felt to me like a - see how empty worldly things are...
Peace, for all of us, can be fleeting. I know few believers who feel truly peaceful and none who do so all the time. One can retreat into religion just as easily Mike retreated into basketball. Religion - the political discourse and the machinations of getting 'fired up' for Jesus - is most always just as much a game and a distraction as a game played on a court. The real journey in life is the quietness within. Jesus said that the Kingdom of God is within - and it is there, in the still quiet place of my solitude that I am hesitant to chastise anyone for wanting to be like Mike. Or to diminish the true joy he experienced on the court - and often brought to others. (But yes, fame and a big ego are not great things)
So he's searching right now - but who isn't? If you're not, then that's when I'd worry. Just some random thoughts...

Shane Ebanks

February 25, 2013 at 08:06 AM

Well said Brother!

[...] http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc/2013/02/21/when-greatness-meets-emptiness-michael-jordan-at-... Like this:Like Loading... This entry was posted in Sports. Bookmark the permalink. ← [...]

Jody McPhearson

February 22, 2013 at 12:50 PM

This is one of the most thought provoking article that I have read in a very long time. It speaks volumes to how we view not only fame, but also peace.

My answer to the question is no, I no longer want to be like Mike. I could not fathom a life without His peace! I pray that one day soon Mike enjoys that same peace.

Ron Barker

February 22, 2013 at 12:17 AM

While this article is well-written and makes a valid point about a person that is risen to the top of the Great American Dream, the same thing can be said for many CEOs, Government Leaders and even some of our military leaders. Many are building castles in the sand that will someday come crashing down.

As a former sports editor for a daily newspaper in the original Atlantic Coast Conference footprint, I was working a game at UNC that Michael Jordan attended. This was before he returned to the NBA after his struggling pro baseball career. He watched some of the game in a press box and some of the game court-level off in a corner but was visibly uncomfortable because more people were watching him than the game. As the close game between Maryland and UNC neared the closing minutes, he disappeared so the focus could return to the game. Afterwards, the locker room was closed while MJ met with the team and the media was asked to refrain from approaching him because he had retired from the NBA to escape the attention.

I believe the image that was created by Nike and the struggling NBA Bulls franchise was far bigger than MJ. His respect for Dean Smith and UNC has continued and his ventures outside playing basketball have endured many failures. While the success of his corporate circle depended heavily on the MJ empire, I believe his attempts in the restaurant businees, baseball, golf, coaching, managing and owning a team have revealed a much more human side.

His inner corporate circle may push him up to be a super human and that has to have an effect on his personality over the years, I do not believe he would've thought up Yahweh as his code name. Wright Thompson wrote a remarkable story but the parts about how much he misses his father that was brutally murdered while sleeping in his car on the side of the road and how MJ has trouble sleeping at night reveal a less than superhuman side that this article seems to portray.

Weekly Links (2/22/2013) | The Beacon

February 22, 2013 at 06:12 AM

[...] Smethurst writes about the sad state that Michael Jordan finds him­self in. It’s a sober­ing real­ity that we are all merely [...]

Mark Soni

February 22, 2013 at 05:24 PM

Excellent article. One of the illusions about the sporting world is that youth/athleticism creates a sense of immortality. Fit men and women, incredible talent, and the glory that is winning any championship. We as a society eat this up. But as age creeps, many players go from pinnacle to marginal, or a freak injury suddenly sucks away the influence that they once had in the form of fans, sponsorship deals, and media exposure. It is a vicious cycle.

Another "Michael Jordan" of his era was King Solomon. He was at the pinnacle of his power, influence, and access to all things of life, yet was still at empty, "meaningless, a chasing after the wind." King Solomon points out in the book of Ecclesiastes, in a fallen world, that the gathering of wealth and the pursuit of life's work is meaningless because someone else will take it when we die. "I hated all the things I had toiled for under the sun, because I must leave them to the one who comes after me." (Ecclesiastes 2:18) So Jordan's legacy may give way to Kobe and onto Lebron so on...

The success of the sporting world is a narcotic because the 'high' coming from adoration flows from humans who are naturally idol worshipers. Our emotions and likes change like the wind. The Gospel comes in and shifts our hearts from worshipping ourselves to worshiping the True God of the Universe, YHWH. Jesus is our champion in fulfilling the righteous law, and peace flows from HIM. Then our priorities, from sports to work, are avenues of worship (see Jeremy Lin). So Solomon knew this and at the end of his book tells the reader to "fear God and His commandments, for this is the duty of mankind." (Ecclesiastes 12:13) And that command comes in the form of the Gospel, to repent and to believe in Our Ultimate Champion...and in the long days of life He never abandons His people.

6-String Salvo, February 22, 2012 | Mike Lee

February 22, 2013 at 04:36 AM

[...] 6. Why is it that great success stories like Michael Jordan (who just turned 50) are often reminders that success doesn’t fill the emptiness they feel? [...]

Links I like | Blogging Theologically

February 22, 2013 at 04:02 AM

[...] Do You Still Want to Be Like Mike? [...]

Rowland

February 22, 2013 at 02:24 AM

Thanks a lot for this Post. It was so well written and the theme is catchy to most youngstars; Do you still want to be like Michael Jordan?

Trevin’s Seven – Trevin Wax

February 22, 2013 at 02:17 AM

[...] 2. Do You Still Want to Be Like Mike (Michael Jordan)? [...]

Mary

February 22, 2013 at 01:42 PM

I'd like to say this article and the various posts are so very thought provoking. And Tom, your comment is brilliant. I hope you are a writer as you express what many of us think and feel so very well.

[...] originalmente el 21 de Febrero para The Gospel Coalition. Traducido por Jairo [...]

Noon Brew 02/21/13 | 13past1

February 21, 2013 at 12:40 PM

[...] selling oneself for success and popularity.  Matt Smethurst at the Gospel Coalition website has an article on Jordan’s OTL piece, as well and it is very good.  Smethurst says: “As a Christian, it’s easy to read a [...]

Chuck

February 21, 2013 at 11:52 AM

An interesting/ironic side note to this is that Jordan's freshman roommate in college, Buzz Peterson, credited Jordan with being the person that drove him to go to church and the reason he became a believer when he was coach at Tennessee. I always think about that when I read or hear stories like this.

Truth Unites... and Divides

February 21, 2013 at 11:47 AM

Do You Still Want to Be Like Mike?

No. But I sure do respect and admire his basketball accomplishments. Truly amazing.

FWIW, I'm a Magic Johnson guy. But Magic couldn't play defense. Michael Jordan was a beast on defense.

Basketball aside, Michael Jordan is likely not headed for Heaven. Unless he repents and worships the true triune God, Creator and Maker of the Universe. Based on that article, and its presumed veracity, Michael Jordan worships himself.

And for that reason, I don't want to be like Mike.

Catherine

February 21, 2013 at 11:43 AM

Melody,

Wow - here I was feeling sorry for Michael. Now I'm feeling sorry for myself! But thanks - I'm a new mom, and you are right - the feeling of being so loved and needed by my babies is perhaps just as deceptive as the adulation surrounding Michael Jordan. Thank you for the warning you just issued me. I'll pray for you, sister.

Catherine

Like Mike « Usufract

February 21, 2013 at 11:03 AM

[...] article is inspiration, audacity, pathos, and grim. Do you want to be Like Mike? Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:Like [...]

Chris Andrews

February 21, 2013 at 10:33 AM

Matt, I am no professional blogger, but I had almost the same exact thought in my blog as you did! Although, I had it posted last night! Great article! http://cdandrews.blogspot.com/2013/02/do-i-want-to-be-like-mike.html

James

February 21, 2013 at 10:30 AM

I happened to read that ESPN article last night. An excellent piece, and profoundly sad. I find it fascinating that the cult of personality and commercialism that helped create his desirable, world-wide recognition also contributed mightily to his undesirable ego. Consequently, the Idol of Jordan (created by marketing, branding, success) also shielded the public (me as an idolizing kid with Jordan everything in his room) from seeing the real Jordan, who is a massive sinner like the rest of us. Everyone wants to be like Mike – we worship the MJ’s of this world - but no one wants to be like Michael Jeffery Jordan, who worships himself.

Mzungu

February 21, 2013 at 10:27 PM

Several years ago, I read an article comparing the retirements of Michael Jordan and David Robinson, and it made such an impression on me. I have sometimes thought back on what the Spurs coach said about Robinson: "He's got much more sense than to stay involved in basketball. He's got a lot of interests that actually have impact on the world and have some value, unlike the rest of us. He's way too committed to real life to do something as silly as basketball the rest of his life."

(http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/halloffame09/columns/story?columnist=sheridan_chris&page=090910robinsonHOF)

Dane

February 21, 2013 at 10:26 AM

My word! Such a nice piece, Matt. Thank you.

T.Newbell

February 21, 2013 at 10:10 PM

I was thinking the same thing, Cynthia. I loved Matt's post. So rich. So good. And part of me hopes in some crazy turn of events, the Bball legend reads it! His emptiness is a good thing. This world (and everything in it good or bad) will never fill us. Only Christ can do that work. Thanks for your writing, Matt!

5 Links to see | WisdomForLife

February 21, 2013 at 10:10 AM

[...] Do you still want to be like Mike?  Jordan’s life off the court, particularly since his final retirement in 2003, hasn’t been so pristine. [...]

Steve Cornell

February 21, 2013 at 09:59 AM

You can't help but respect how dedicated Michael was to being the best player he could be. Natural talent and gifts? Yes! Hard work and dedication? Yes! I also feel for the loss he experienced in his father's death. This can tail spin a man for years to come.

But we were meant for more --much more than basketball and the riches and fame they brought to Michael Jordan. I so much hope he finds it.

“Our core problem is that the human heart, ignoring God, turns in on itself, tries to lift itself, wants to please itself, and ends up debasing itself. The person who reaches toward God and wants to please God gets, so to speak, stretched by this move, and ennobled by the transcendence of its object. But the person who curves in on himself, who wants God’s gifts without God, who wants to satisfy the desires of a divided heart, ends up sagging and contracting into a little wad. His desires are provincial.” “There is something in humility which, strangely enough, exalts the heart, and something in pride which debases it.” (Augustine, The City of God, 14.13, quotes in Plantinga, Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be, p. 62)

Don Sweeting

February 21, 2013 at 09:42 PM

Thanks for this good reflection. I watched MJ play in Chicago

Melody

February 21, 2013 at 09:38 AM

When I read something or hear a sermon I always ask myself how this is like me or what do I do that is similar.

I'm not famous but I do look back. When I look at the young women at church close to bursting with new life I feel an ache in my heart. Holding their newborns for a moment I remember what it is like to take care of my own when no one else would do for them but me. When they would get excited to see me when I walked into the room to pick them up. Knowing that I was their whole world and it was up to me to keep them alive, safe, growing and happy. I felt important in a way that I do not now.
I know that God has things for me to do now. But faith is what keeps me going when I can see no immediate feedback on if what I do matters or not.

Jason Seville

February 21, 2013 at 09:38 AM

Great piece, bro. Complete agreement from me. I honestly haven't liked MJ ever since I actually heard him talk at length post-retirement (can't pinpoint when that was). I love basketball now, but grew up indifferent (it was the same season as wrestling and there was a lot of animosity between wrestlers and basketball players where I grew up). I always admired MJ, but all I knew of him was the highlights and endorsements and championships. I loved him for bringing home the gold for USA (the only time I'd watch the sport, really, until college).

Since becoming a believer and watching the retirement career of MJ--especially in comparison to Magic--I've been less than impressed. A little depressed for him, actually. I'd much rather "be like Magic" than "be like Mike." Magic has moved on. He seems joyful. He's still around the sport and still giving back to the sport, but he can laugh and joke and take some ribbing and defer to others and encourage others. MJ is in a prison. It's very, very sad.

Those other guys (Magic, Larry, etc) were all the most important people in every room, too, unless they were in a room with MJ. But it didn't affect them the same way, it seems.

As much as people love to hate Kobe and Lebron, MJ's arrogance almost makes me root for one of them to get seven. Maybe he could move on then? Probably not, but we can always hope.

Who knew "I wanna be, I wanna be like Mike, Oh if I could be like Mike" would actually be a curse that I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy?

Cynthia

February 21, 2013 at 09:21 PM

This was an enjoyable post. I will have to read the actual article. I think Mike is on the right track, as he is realizing his emptiness. He is talking about himself and it doesn't seem as though he is pleased. Basketball consumed him and he didn't take the time to think about his mortality and the vacant hole in his heart. Jesus uses us best when we realize we are not the end-all... when we are broken and empty. It sounds like Mike is running on empty. This is a good sign! Jesus is standing, right there, waiting to fill him up! Let's lift him in prayer. Emptiness can be good, if we fill it with Jesus. On my way to read the article. Blessings!

Ruth Li

February 21, 2013 at 09:20 PM

it is really a true and convincing lesson for every ambitious young men nowadays, when more glory and attention is built on the external things, like fame and wealth. Mike is an aspiring man, who is looking for a dream and life value, but mistakingly bet all on career and material stimulation, he like most humen, have failed to enjoy the value of life being created by God to glorify his greatness,amaze and beauty. Such failure and departure from knowing God's love is because of the human sin. Knowing life itself value does not mean what Mike strive is purely meaningless or negative, in God we still engage in various kinds of activities to make the life blossom and continue God's glory. So what Mike's lacking in life is an eternaltrue faith and home of soul, so that he can find undyingpeace, joy and satisfation.

CM

February 21, 2013 at 08:59 PM

Great article. Great truth. Praying for that bro to know!

Ruth Li

February 21, 2013 at 08:50 PM

Just keep pure faith and pursue what God care(it is not easy for most believers to trully realize), then God will point you the path, but then only obedient man like Abreham who doubt no God's command really please the father's mind. Just keep your faith, can celebrate every piece of mirecle in understanding and being inspired by God's word, for human can don't do this without spirit's work.

Paul M

February 21, 2013 at 08:39 AM

Well done! In the end what we leave on Earth is fleeting, temporary, and will never fill the void of peace no matter how hard a push to do otherwise. As so correctly pointed out, peace can never be achieved through our achievements, only through Christ. Unfortunately for many (and not knowing Jordan's heart or faith) high performers cannot get humble enough to see.

News of Note | Santa Monica Church Blog

February 21, 2013 at 08:11 AM

[...] “Do You Still Want to Be Like Mike?” – Matt Smethurt’s post on the ESPN interview with Michael Jordan as he turns 50. [...]

David

February 21, 2013 at 08:08 AM

"Most people live anonymous lives, and when they grow old and die, any record of their existence is blown away. They're forgotten, some more slowly than others, but eventually it happens to virtually everyone."

It's so true. Why do we labor in vain. "Teach us to number our days that we may gain wisdom."

Paul

February 21, 2013 at 08:08 AM

Well written. Well said!

[...] was on Google+ this morning, and I saw this post: Do You Still Want to Be Like Mike? I just tossed in the phrase because I liked the structure and balance between “Don’t [...]

Jon

February 21, 2013 at 07:22 PM

That final sentence is beautiful. Just thought I'd share.

[...] TGC Mobile | Article | Do You Still Want to Be Like Mike? [...]

Kyle

February 21, 2013 at 05:44 PM

There are a number of 70 and 80 year old pastors dealing with the same stuff Jordan is struggling with.

[...] (For more on the Michael Jordan ESPN interview, please read Matt Smethurst’s excellent article) [...]

Tom

February 21, 2013 at 02:30 PM

Great post. Everyone should read the ESPN story. I like many who grew up in the 80's and 90's idolized Michael Jordan. I tried to read everything I could find about him trying to gain some insight on what made him so successful. That's why when he finally retired I was so glad David Halberstam was going to get the chance to write a biography on him. Well, I was kind of surprised when I finished the biography because I felt like I didn't really learn anything substantial about him. The full title of the book was Playing for Keeps: Michael Jordan and the World He Made. By the end of the book my overall impression was that he made an empty world--a world of endorsements, self-promotion, entitlement, and entertainment. I think that was the first time I realized that as far as convictions go I found him to be a little bit of an empty suit. I'm not sure why this came as a revelation to me. After all, we are more often than not disappointed when we look into the private lives of our idols. But I felt like he was the perfect poster child for the 80's and 90's. After reading the biography I remember having the same feeling as one who has just left a shopping mall. There is a kind of empty vacuity about the whole experience.


I say this being half-serious but if Michael ever wants a challenge he should become a Christian, if he isn't one already, and then try evangelizing. There will be no shortage of perceived slights and insults to motivate him towards a higher goal. It would be interesting if he ever went this direction. That's the only true peace he'll find outside of the lanes of the basketball court.

The ESPN story reads like a modern day Ecclesiastes. He needs a Song of Songs to follow.

[...] Do you still want to be like Mike? [...]

vijay

April 14, 2013 at 01:00 PM

Best vid of Michael Jordan -MJ to 50 of him

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t68abh0cmAI