May 13, 2020

Michael Jordan – The Most Competitive Player Ever

Omar Abubakar

s we adjust to life in quarantine and absorb new information on Covid-19, it seems as if the sporting world has been totally forgotten about. Our old habit of watching new sports highlights, checking our fantasy sports teams, and attending live games with friends is no longer an option. There is still new content however, it’s just not live sports. It comes in the form of a documentary. Sports fans around the world are glued to Netflix every Sunday night for the newest episodes of The Last Dance, a story about Michael Jordan.

This detailed documentary series has become must-see TV for sports fans and is so popular that last week it was reported that The Last Dance has become the most in-demand documentary at the moment, according to Bloomberg.

The Last Dance is a 10 episode documentary series exploring the life of Michael Jordan, and stories from his basketball career. The main setting is the 97-98 season, the last year of the great Bulls dynasty. One of the main themes from watching this documentary series is just how competitive Michael Jordan is. It seems like he just has this innate superhuman level of competitiveness that fuels him to greatness.

Michael Jordan and notable players from the 1997-98 Bulls roster – Source

My Thoughts on “The Last Dance” So far

So far the documentary has provided a brand new, behind the scenes look at Michael Jordan during his stardom. There are new episodes every Sunday, and the most recent feature showed a lot of fascinating tidbits from his playing career and personal life. As a sports fan, it’s great to see behind the scenes interactions and stories, and this documentary is loaded with them.

Michael Jordan – Source

Sunday’s May 3rd Recap:

In the most recent episodes, we learned a lot about the 92 Olympic Dream team. We also learned about MJ’s relationship with Kobe Bryant, the factors leading up to Jordan’s first retirement, and a lot about his gambling addiction. During the 1998 season, at the All-Star Game in MSG, during the height of his status, he still wanted to prove he could shut down the next superstar (Kobe). The episode had clips of them battling one-on-one and each player talking about their brother-like relationship.

Michael Jordan with a young Kobe Bryant – Source

Episode 5:

The fifth episode also sheds light on the Monte Carlo scrimmage in which Jordan beat many of his opponents at the 92 Olympics. It was cool to see the clips and hear about the trash talking.

In 1992, Jordan was asked to join the USA Olympics team. He and his teammates traveled to Barcelona, where they performed like never before. The “Dream Team” was one of the greatest basketball rosters ever assembled. But it might come as a surprise to know that one of the best games ever played was during their practice.

The 1992 Olympic Dream Team – Source

There was a 5-5 scrimmage held between the USA’s top players during an Olympic practice. The group was divided into two teams, Blue (led by Johnson, with Barkley, Robinson, Mullin, and Laettner) and White (led by Jordan, with Malone, Ewing, Pippen, and Bird).  Even though the White team trailed by 7 points at different times in the game – no official statistics are available – in the end, Jordan led his team to victory, scoring 17 points. Many of his points came late into the game after Magic Johnson said to him:


In retrospect, these are comical last words. After that game, many of the players seemed to acknowledge that the Michael Jordan era had commenced.

Larry Bird, Michael Jordan, and Magic Johnson at a Photo Shoot During the 1992 Olympics – Source

The Olympics were a big part of the episode and we also learned about the Toni Kukoc dynamic.

Kukoc was being hyped as a superstar from Europe and the next Bulls great. Coming into the USA vs Croatia game, there was a lot of animosities that Jordan and Pippen had towards Bulls General Manager Jerry Krause.

Michael Jordan & Scottie Pippen – Source

Unfortunately for Kukoc, he was the target of Jordan and Pippen’s frustration. Jordan and Pippen didn’t have anything against Kukoc personally, but they were annoyed with how Krause was putting him on a pedestal. They went out and proved that they were superior players, as they each took turns locking him down and exposing him defensively. In the end, they limited him to just 4 points, while putting up dominant offensive performances. Kukoc ended up joining the Bulls afterward and became a key component for the Bulls second three-peat.

Toni Kukoc at a Press Conference With General Manager Jerry Krause After Signing With the Bulls in 1993 – Source

Episode 6:

In the 6th episode, they focused more on the personal aspects outside of the game for Michael Jordan. We hear about the external factors that led up to his first retirement, and the pressure he was constantly under. We are also taken on a deep dive into the gambling addiction he had, partly due to his intensely competitive nature, but also due to needing time away from it all. This came to the public’s attention during the 1993 playoffs. Before a game in the 1993 playoffs against the New York Knicks, Michael Jordan went on a gambling trip to Atlantic City with friends and family. The move brought a lot of media backlash with many questioning if Michael had an addiction.

Michael Jordan Enjoyed Gambling – Source

Lastly, episode 6 also showcased the 1993 NBA finals between the Chicago Bulls and the Phoenix Suns, led by the 1993 MVP Charles Barkley. The series went to a competitive 6 games before the Bulls closed it out in Chicago, and this championship would be Jordan’s third consecutive one.

Michael Jordan & Charles Barkley – Source

Many young people just know Charles Barkley from his career as an NBA Analyst on the Emmy award-winning show “Inside the NBA“. However, it is often forgotten just how dominant Sir Charles truly was in his prime. At only 6″4, he routinely grabbed rebounds against men much taller than him. He had the best quote of the episode:


I’ve found it so interesting to follow along in this video documentary of Michael Jordan. His competitiveness is so contagious it makes me want to work on my craft after watching the episodes.

It is incredible to think that these are just a few stories that show how tough and determined Michael Jordan is, both as a player and person. Let’s take a trip down memory lane early into MJ’s basketball career, before he started winning.

A Look Back At Michael Jordan’s Early Struggles

Michael Jordan – Source

There is simply no denying that Michael Jordan is solidified as one of the greatest players that the NBA will ever see. When you think of Mount Rushmore for basketball, MJ is always there. In fact, many would not hesitate to call him the greatest of all time. That’s being said, it certainly wasn’t given to him, and this is something that a lot of people don’t understand. In fact, a lot of people don’t understand the hardships that Jordan faced early on and overcame to get to where he is today.

What helped him through all of these turbulent moments in his career was his unwavering commitment to being great.

Michael Jordan’s Struggle Against The Pistons

The “Bad Boy” Pistons Won 2 Consecutive Championships in 1989 and 1990 – Source

If you go back and look at Jordan’s past, you’ll clearly see that his biggest challenge during his time with the Bulls was the Pistons. Many people told him he’d never compare to the likes of Larry Bird or a Magic Johnson because he couldn’t lead his team to a championship.

During the 80s it was Isiah Thomas and the Detroit Pistons that were keeping Jordan and the Bulls from achieving true greatness. This was because the Pistons specifically targeted Jordan.

The “Bad Boy” Pistons Were Physical with Jordan — Source

When the Bulls played the Pistons, they would rough him up any time he touched the ball. In fact, the team even came up with a name for their defensive strategy. It was called “The Jordan Rules”. “The Jordan Rules” were very effective as the NBA was a different game back then and teams were allowed to get away with a lot more pushing and shoving.

The Jordan Rules Really Tested Jordan — Source

“The Jordan Rules” involved overplaying him to keep the ball from getting to him and when he finally did touch the ball, they would physically rough him up. Even if he got the points, he was certainly paying a heavy price. The odds were stacked against him and he had failed against the Pistons 3 straight times in a row. The 1990 defeat was particularly devastating, as it came in game 7.

Finally Overcoming His Hurdle and the Start of the Bulls Dynasty

Jordan Was Tired of the Physical Abuse From the Pistons and Decided to Get Stronger — Source

In classic Michael Jordan style, he would finally overcome this hurdle through sheer determination. Before the 1990-1991 season, Michael had to go as far as to completely dedicate himself to the gym. He put on 15 pounds of muscle so that he can withstand the physical abuse the Pistons threw his way.

Michael’s daily routine focused on weight training and working on his footwork. He pushed his teammates to do the same. That year the Bulls dominated the league and won their first championship as they defeated the Piston 4-0 in the Eastern Conference Finals. As the final seconds of Game 4 wound down, the upset starters of the Pistons stormed off the court without shaking the hands of the Bulls players. It was a dishonorable end to a fierce rivalry.

The Bulls and Pistons Rivalry Was a Fierce One — Source

This was the start of the great Bulls dynasty and is just one of the many examples of why Jordan was a true leader and the greatest player ever.

4 Stories That Show How Competitive Michael Jordan Was

As a big Michael Jordan fan, I love reading stories about him during his playing days. There were so many to choose from for this article, but these are 4 examples of Michael Jordan that I think best demonstrate his competitive nature.

  1. Jordan’s Fight With Steve Kerr
Steve Kerr & Jordan — Source

Not only was Jordan dedicated to the game, but he was one of the fiercest competitors that the league ever saw. A perfect example of this would be the time that he got into a fight with his own teammate. This incident came during a scrimmage at training camp when Kerr took offense to what a fired-up Jordan said.

It was during a scrimmage at a training camp when Jordan was abusing Steve Kerr and his team. In an attempt to protect Kerr, head coach Phil Jackson started calling fouls on Michael. This upset Michael as it felt like he was protecting Kerr and Kerr needed to defend himself. After one more rough play, Kerr stood up and pushed Jordan. Jordan then threw a punch at his face and gave him a black eye. Steve Kerr believes he won a lot of Jordan’s respect at that moment. Their relationship blossomed after this incident.

As many basketball historians know, the feud was short-lived. During game 6 of the 1997 playoffs, when it mattered most, the two teammates were on the same page. In the dying seconds, Jordan drew the double team and passed the ball over to Kerr. Steve Kerr hit the championship-winning shot. Sometimes a little fight is just what a team needs to bond together.

  1. Jordan’s Intense and Hostile Trash Talk
Michael Jordan and Gary Payton Exchanging Words During the 1996 NBA Finals – Source

You just learned of one story in which Jordan wasn’t afraid to speak his mind when he felt like his teammates weren’t doing their job. But there are many more examples of this. Perhaps the most notable was Jordan and Rodney McCray.

Jordan was known to go at Rodney McCray hard during practice. A perfect example of this would have been back in 1993 during a midseason practice. Jordan was guarding McCray and starting screaming in his face, calling him a loser and telling him that he was always going to be a loser. He repeatedly told him that he couldn’t even make a jumper. This same year Jordan did lead the Bulls and McCray to the championship, but McCray was never the same after this incident. The poor guy only averaged around 3.5 points per game that season and retired that summer.

If this is how Jordan was as a teammate, you can imagine he was pretty vocal to opponents as well. One perfect example of this side of him would be when he trash-talked Muggsy Bogues. The Bulls were up by one against Muggsy and the Hornets in a game during the 1995 playoffs. Jordan was guarding the 5″3 Muggsy when he simply just took a step back and gave him free rein to shoot.

Michael Jordan towering over Muggsy Bogues – Source

Jordan told him to “shoot the f****** ball, you midget.” Unfortunately, Muggsy did shoot the ball but came nowhere close to the basket, as it clanged off the rim. The Bulls ended up going on to win this game 85-84 and moved onto the semifinals to go head to head against the Orlando Magic.

3. His Competitiveness Extends Off The Court

Michael Jordan is best known for his fiery competitiveness and this extends off the court as well. If you know anything about Jordan, you know that he is obsessed with golf. He loves playing the sport. Former NHL player Jeremy Roenick recently told a Chicago sports radio program a story of playing golf with Jordan during the 1992 NBA season. He explained that the 2 met up early in the morning to play golf. After 36 holes, Roenick beat Jordan twice and took a few thousand from him.

Michael Jordan Loves Golf – Source

As they walked off the course, Roenick joked that he was going to call his bookie and place all of that money on Cleveland since Jordan would be playing them later that night. He figured it would be easy money since Jordan spent the whole day drinking beers and playing poorly at golf.

Jordan bet the NHL great that his team would win by 20 points and he would score more than 40. Jordan went on to score 52 points and his team won by more than 20.

Michael Jordan – Source

It has also been said that Jordan liked to bet on everything including baggage claims. He bet his teammates that his luggage would arrive first. Oftentimes his teammates would foolishly take bets and be optimistic as the bags started to roll out. Unfortunately, his teammates did not know that he had tipped off the handlers to ensure that his luggage would always come out first. Hey, nobody said he was always playing by the rules.

It should be no surprise that Jordan has sometimes been criticized for his competitiveness. It is often said that he takes things a bit too far. A great example of this is when UNC teammate Buzz Peterson told a story about a card game he played with his mother and Jordan. Buzz caught the NBA legend cheating during the Crazy Eights game by hiding an eight from the previous game. Peterson recalled that he found the eight hiding under Jordan’s leg.

Suffice to say, Jordan didn’t like to lose and he would do everything possible to win.

4. Jordan’s Comeback With The Wizards

At the age of 38, Jordan decided to return to the NBA for a second time. Six months before his return, he started participating in a tough training routine to prepare for his comeback. Jordan initially misled the media by pretending he was training to lose weight. This distraction was short-lived though, and the media took the focus on his return. Even with the added publicity, he worked hard and got himself into great shape. The results were great, as he was the best player on the team and a force for most of the season.

However, his comeback was short-lived, as Jordan’s 2001-2002 season would be cut short after he suffered a knee injury. He played 60 games that season. During that time, he averaged 22.9 points per game and 5.7 rebounds per game.

The next year would be Michael Jordan’s final year. He played in every single game and averaged 20 points per game, the lowest of his career. It is incredible to think that someone 39 years old was able to average 20 points a game. His hall of fame speech years after his retirement was a memorable one.

Our Final Thoughts on Michael Jordan and The Last Dance

With many of us quarantined in our homes, The Last Dance is providing us with a morsel of fresh sporting content. It may not be brand new games, but it is a brand new perspective on one of the sporting world’s most influential players. Watching Michael Jordan’s competitiveness in every aspect of his life really illustrates why he was able to have so much success in his playing career.

It will be interesting to see if this new light on Michael Jordan’s mindset inspires the next wave of basketball players in the same way that he did during the 90s. As a sports fan, it’s awesome to see him back in the national spotlight.

Micheal Jordan Emotional After Winning his 4th Championship Due to His Late Father not Being There to Celebrate With Him – Source

Anybody who wasn’t old enough to enjoy the prime of MJ’s career should find the time to watch this documentary. His mindset and focus on becoming the best are truly one of a kind. Even though he is just a sports figure, his constant focus and drive to be the best is something we can all learn from.

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