By his own admission, Michael Jordan was not a nice guy to his teammates nor on the basketball court. No one doubts Jordan’s skill and success at basketball. But if you want to be a good man, may I suggest don’t be like Mike?
I Want to Be a Good Man. How About You?
You’ll know my aim is to encourage and equip those good at being men to be good men. And while this might seem like convoluted logic at first, there is a difference.
It is entirely possible for you to be good at being a man yet not be a good man. It is also possible to be a good man but not good at being at man.
Jordan Was Not A Good Man
The example of Michael Jordan is of someone who was good at being a man yet not a good man. Lest you think I’m being hard on Jordan, let me prove to you he struggles with this in himself. His case is precisely why my aim is what it is.
The Last Dance
The Last Dance is a 10-part documentary miniseries released on Netflix this year. It describes Michael Jordan’s basketball career and focuses on his last season with the Chicago Bulls. My son and I have been watching it together and enjoying it very much. Jordan and his teammates were great players and a phenomenal team.
The final montage of episode 7 includes the following comments:
[beginning at 0:45:37] Scott Burrell, Bulls Forward, 1997-98: “We all know Michael’s tenacious on the court. It was business on the court, but he was a good guy to be around off the court. You can relax around him off the court. He’s fun, he’s enjoyable.”
Will Perdue, Bulls Center, 1988-95: “Off the floor, he was gonna be cordial and accepting, he was gonna be nice, but as a teammate, he had certain expectations.”
B.J. Armstrong, Bulls Guard, 1989-95: “Was he a nice guy? He couldn’t have been nice. With that kind of mentality he had, he can’t be a nice guy. He would be difficult to be around if you didn’t truly love the game of basketball. He is difficult.”
Interviewer: “Through the years, do you think that intensity has come at the expense of being perceived as a nice guy?”
Michael: “Well, I mean … I don’t know, I mean… Winning has a price. And leadership has a price. So, I pulled people along when they didn’t wanna be pulled. I challenged people when they didn’t wanna be challenged. And I earned that right because my teammates who came after me didn’t endure all the things that I endured.
“Once you join the team, you live at a certain standard that I play the game and I wasn’t gonna take anything less. Now, if that means I had to go in and get in your ass a little bit? Then I did that.
“You ask all my teammates? ‘The one thing about Michael Jordan was he never asked me to do something that he didn’t fucking do.’
“When people see this [the interview], they gonna say, ‘He wasn’t really a nice guy. He may have been a tyrant.’ Well, that’s you, because you never won anything. I wanted to win, but I wanted them to win and be a part of that as well.
“Look, I don’t have to do this [the interview]. I’m only doing it because it is who I am. [tearing up] That’s how I played the game. That was my mentality. [voice shaking] If you don’t wanna play that way… don’t play that way. [to the interviewer, getting up to leave] Break.”
Clearly his teammates were divided on whether Jordan was a nice guy off the court, but they were certainly all in agreement he was not a nice guy on the court, whether in a game or in training.
His athleticism and success at basketball qualify Michael Jordan as good at being a man. But I would argue his not being a nice guy to his teammates disqualifies him as a good man. You can challenge and cajole your teammates when you want to bring the best out of them —Jordan was the team captain after all; that was his job. But he didn’t have to be shitty about it. He didn’t have to swear at nor insult his teammates to bring the best out of them. He definitely didn’t have to rub their face in the fact they were not as skilled as he.
The Virtues of Men
To refer to Jack Donovan’s typology of the virtues of men, from his 2012 book The Way Of Men, Jordan exhibits strength, courage, and mastery exceptionally well. Thus, he naturally found himself high up the hierarchy of his team. He had honour because he was respected by his peers. Thus, he became the team’s captain, literally and figuratively.
Unfortunately, Jordan failed to give honour to his teammates. They were all exceptional athletes in their own right. Maybe not as skilled or successful as Jordan, but they were certainly not slouches. Jordan did not show respect for his teammates, esteem their mastery, nor recognise the status they rightly earned.
In my opinion, you can be good at being a man, but one of the ways you will fail at being a good man is by not recognising and valuing how others are good at being men themselves.
Some people want it to happen, some wish it would happen, others make it happen. (Michael Jordan)
‘You Don’t Have to Cry About It!’
If you think I’m being unfairly harsh toward Michael Jordan, then look again at the last segment of dialogue above.
Michael Jordan was clearly bothered by his behaviour toward his teammates. He felt like he had to justify himself. His eyes became all teary and his voice cracked as he did so. He ultimately had to take a break from the interview to compose himself.
Those are the signs of a man who is not entirely sure of himself.
I rest my case.
I can accept failure. Everyone fails at something. But I can’t accept not trying. (Michael Jordan)
Be a Good Man
Jack Donovan and I disagree over what it takes to be a good man, and even whether this is necessary. I hope you will agree with Michael Jordan and I, that being a good man is just as important as being good at being a man.
After putting so much effort into being good at being a man, by exhibiting all the virtues of men, don’t regret not being a good man!
How do you feel when another man does not show you the respect you feel you deserve? Do you show other men the respect they deserve? Have you always acknowledged the strength, courage, and mastery of others?