Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Essay on Michael Jordan

Essay on Michael Jordan

Michael Jordan, the most popular athlete in the world, is arguably the greatest basketball player of all time. He led the Chicago Bulls to six NBA championships in the 1990's, and had a lot of success on the United States Olympic team as well. He announced his retirement from the sport of basketball due to the murder of his father after the 1993-1994 season, and he left millions of people shocked and disappointed. No one was really sure if the death of his father was the only reason, and what was even more shocking was that he decided to try his hand at baseball, the sport his father always wanted him to play. Fortunately, during his odyssey into the minor leagues and into a period of self-discovery, he allowed one man to be there with him and understand exactly what he was trying to accomplish. This man was Robert Greene, the author of Rebound: The Odyssey of Michael Jordan. Greene had previously written a book about Michael Jordan and his three consecutive NBA championships called Hang Time: Days and Dreams with Michael Jordan, but he did not become nearly as close to him or come to understand him as clearly during the time that was written. With Rebound, he discovered what kind of a person Michael Jordan is, and came to understand what Jordan was trying to do. He found out that even though Michael Jordan is widely known as the greatest basketball player of all time, what makes him a truly respectable person is his extraordinary work ethic and his persistence, and most of all, the fact that he is never afraid to fail.

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Robert Greene was born on March 10, 1947, in Columbus, Ohio. He received his education at Northwestern University, where he graduated in 1969 with a degree in journalism. He was the author of a column in Esquire in 1980. He has contributed news stories, articles, and columns to many popular newspapers and magazines including New York Times, Rolling Stone, Harper's, and Newsweek. He has also worked as a reporter for the Chicago Sun-Times and a columnist for the Chicago Tribune. He is known for being a talented storywriter with a sharp eye and ear. According to Taffy Cannon in the Los Angeles Times, “Greene has a gift for finding a fresh angle, the offbeat circumstance, and the fascinating story begging to be written”(Galenet). Greene also is known for keeping his own personal feelings and judgments of situations out of the picture in his works. Critics say that his observations are sharp. He first became well known for touring with the rock group Alice Cooper in 1973. The band labeled itself as”the sickest, most degenerate band in America” (Galenet). His account on his experiences with the band, Billion Dollar Baby, was a success, and it gave a unique look on the inside lives of the band members. It showed that most of the band members were intelligent people who did outrageous things to gain popularity. Though they made lots of money and gained famed, their lives were ultimately empty, and all they had to do during the day was watch television and drink. Most critics praise Greene for being able to see beyond a superstar's popularity and view what they are really all about. New York Times reviewer Christopher Lehman-Haupt describes Greene as “a cultural explorer in search of the gap between the image and the reality”(Galenet). This is what he accomplished so well with Rebound: The Story of Michael Jordan. His insight into what makes people like Jordan tick is what makes him a gifted writer.

Rebound is the story of Michael Jordan's personal journey he went through after winning three straight NBA championships from 1991 to 1993. It is sort of a follow-up to another book by Greene, Hang Time: Days and Dreams with Michael Jordan. That book ended with Jordan establishing himself as the undisputed greatest basketball player of all time. This biography picks up where that one left off. Jordan's father was brutally murdered while sleeping at a rest stop, and Jordan decided to retire from the sport of basketball, much to the disappointment of his fans in Chicago and all across the United States. He felt he had won enough championships, and so he went in search of something more. He longed for inner fulfillment more than anything. He wanted to try something new. So, he decided to try and become a professional baseball player, which was what his father always wanted him to be. Showing more determination than anyone ever could have imagined, he strived to fulfill that dream. He started off in the minor leagues because he was not good enough to play in the majors. Most sportswriters and fans criticized what he was doing. Sports Illustrated, the magazine that had always supported him the most, was now making him the butt of all their jokes. But Jordan, never afraid of failure, kept striving to get better along the way. Players young enough to be his children surrounded him, and he was wondering what he was doing in the ballpark a lot of the time. But he kept on trying.

Many of Michael Jordan's fans were worried that Michael would fail at baseball. They felt that if he did (which he surely would), his basketball reputation might be scarred. If most people were in Michael Jordan's position, they would probably think the exact same thing and either retire from sports or continue their basketball career. But Michael was not affected by these people and their harsh feelings at all (and if he was, he didn't show it). He was not afraid of failure.

“I'm not going to be afraid anymore. I can only do my best. I'm not going to be afraid that someone will find out when I've failed. It's the only answer. Otherwise, I couldn't live”(Greene, 11).

He simply wanted to try and play baseball like his father always wanted him to do, and if he would never amount to anything, he figured he would be okay as long as he tried his best. So, much to the surprise of many people, he showed up at spring training with the White Sox.

During his spring training with the White Sox, Jordan felt extremely insecure about his abilities. He felt like it was his first day of school and he was the new kid trying to fit in. Being around major league players at the tryouts made him feel insecure. He showed up at practice in full uniform, while the other players were in normal clothing.

“I wasn't sure what the norm was. They hung the uniform in my locker when I got here, so I assumed I was supposed to wear it. I wanted to go by the book, but I guess I wasn't quite right”(Greene, 36).

He was among some of the best baseball players in the country during training, as well as several young prospects with a very bright future in baseball, and yet most of the fans who were watching the tryouts were only there to see him. Most of the major league players did not want him to be there. He was failing miserably, but he stayed and continued to try and make it to the majors. He would wake up early in the morning for some private lessons with the team's batting coach to try and improve his swing. He was the greatest basketball player in the history of the game, and yet he was waking up early in the morning to learn to play baseball. He certainly did not have to be there, and practically everyone would have understood if he decided to give up right away. But he continued to try his best, even when he realized that he would be going to the minors.

Jordan did not seem to have a problem with the minors. Most of the people there were young men who had played baseball all their lives. Jordan was 31 years old and just now learning how to play the game. He bought a bus for his team that became very well known for being the most lavish bus of all the minor league teams. And inside the locker rooms, Jordan was just one of the guys. He told Greene once that his favorite part of the game was practice because that was when he got to have fun with the other players. He did not think of himself as above any of them. And the other players thought the same thing about him, and for the most part they admired him for always trying his hardest to improve. And they were amazed at the crowds Jordan drew to the stadiums.

Jordan drew more fans to the stadium than any of his teammates had ever seen. At the beginning of the season, virtually every game he played in sold out. People just wanted to see him, and everyone was always hungry for an autograph. But, as the season went on, the crowds gradually grew smaller. People began to realize that they were no longer watching Jordan, the greatest basketball player of all time; they were simply looking at an okay minor league baseball player. By the end of his first season, there were many empty seats in the stadiums at his games. This was also due to Jordan's quickly declining batting average.

Jordan started out his first season doing very well. He was on a hitting streak for his first ten games, and had a batting average over .300. But soon, the minor league pitchers began to learn what he could and could not hit. Since he had never played baseball at this level before, he did not know how to overcome his weaknesses. As word got around that he could not hit curveballs whatsoever, his batting average began to diminish. His hitting streak quickly ended, and he was barely able to finish the season with a batting average over .200. This frustrated him, and allowed his critics to really attack him. There was one game in particular where everything came down to him at bat, and he struck out. He lost the game for his team, and after it was over and everyone began to leave, Jordan stayed there silent, wondering what he was doing playing baseball.

He said that he seriously considered quitting after that night, but he did not because his batting coach urged him to keep trying. He had been failing during all this time, but he never quit.

Jordan believed that as long as he worked as hard as he possibly could, he would adjust to baseball. He thought that as he grew more accustomed to the game, it would become more familiar to him, like basketball, and soon he would not have to think to make decisions; everything would hopefully become second nature to him. He likely never considered the possibility that he may just not have the natural or physical skills to be a good baseball player. If he did consider this, then it did not faze him from trying to succeed at becoming at least decent. Would most people keep going for as long as Jordan did if they knew they were the greatest basketball player of all time and that the entire world loved them? It's very doubtful. Perhaps it was his love for his father that kept him going. He wanted to find true happiness, and one thing for certain was that he did not care about what other people thought would make him happy. He was playing baseball for himself and for his father, and he was not there for his fans at all. He said he used to worry about what other people thought of him, and he would try to make himself appear how people wanted him to be like. But now, he no longer cares, and he just wants to be himself.

Michael Jordan tried his best to succeed at baseball, and if it wasn't for the strikes that occurred, there is a good chance he would have kept trying to succeed for a lot longer. His determination is unmatched by practically anyone. Robert Greene's book is as meaningful as it is because it realizes this and it portrays Michael Jordan as a human dream in search of something. Jordan went from being cut on his high school basketball team to becoming a basketball legend. He deserves every bit of credit for being a celebrated athlete, and it was his willpower and the fact that he was never afraid of failure that brought him so far.

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