Post by the Husband
I was a teenager during the time Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls reigned and captured the hearts and imagination of the world with 6 championships. This documentary series allows a rare behind the scenes look at what was going on as they entered into their final season as the championship team. There are so many elements to this story that are fascinating, but here are just a few of my thoughts so far on the series from a Christian point of view.
#1 The Importance of Fathers.
In the first two episodes we learn that MJ – upon reflection – felt that he competed intensely with Larry Jordan (his older brother) “to get my father’s approval”. MJ stated that “as you get older” – you start to reflect more on life and figure out what drives you. For him, his unrelenting, intense, and at times pathological, competitive nature stemmed from him trying to win his father’s approval.
Scottie Pippen on the other hand, reflected on how his father had a stroke – leading to him essentially using basketball as an escape from the suffering at home, and then later on probably affecting his decision to take a 7 year deal when financially it would have been better to take a shorter deal. His father’s abrupt illness affected him deeply. He did not take his own health for granted – he knew that his back injury could easily become worse and end his career. He also felt the need to provide for his family at the time – and so he chose the security of the long-term contract over aiming for more dollars later on.
One of the most interesting things about people is that most of us are not really aware of what is really driving many of our decisions. We think that we are rational and logical, but in fact we are often making decisions based on emotions and things from the past. Having insight into why we are the way we are can be extremely helpful.
Now for MJ – his ridiculous drive has indeed helped him to become arguably one of the greatest sporting icons of all time, if not the cultural icon of all time. He said himself that it “drives me insane” if he cannot win. So his desire to win is not just for the pleasure of it, but it is to avoid intense negative emotions too. Perhaps these negative emotions are akin to him feeling at some level that he does not have the approval of his father and therefore has let his father, and in turn, himself down. This fear of failure has been channeled into a ridiculous work ethic which has probably come at the cost of relationships and I would argue his ability to have true inner peace – the peace that is there even if you don’t win.
From a Christian perspective, MJ’s desire to please his father is an echo of human nature. Ever since the fall, humans have felt the need to somehow win back the approval of God – and we have failed consistently over the generations. Only Jesus Christ could wash away our sin as well as change our hearts so that we are able to stand before the Father of creation and be approved by him. Only Jesus could give us that peace that we are searching for.
We idolise those that are “the best” – but often the reason that they got to be the “best” is because they have sacrificed everything to win. But win what? The applause of man? Money? Happiness?
James 4:14 says “Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.”
Scottie on the other hand, was also very driven, but perhaps by different primary motives. Perhaps he was more driven by the fear that anything could be taken away at any time. Make hay while the sun shines as they say.
We certainly should be grateful for the gift of each day, the gift of each breath we breath, each step we are able to take, and even each thought we are able to think. However, as Christians we are called to rely on God as Jehovah Jireh – the provider. We can’t really guarantee anything – we don’t know if we are going to be able to provide for our families tomorrow. But we know that God cares, and He will provide – even if something were to happen to us.
So in God the Father – we have both approval – he accepts you just as you are, and we also have provision – he will provide for you because He loves you. There is love and security in the arms of God, and we do not need to strive to earn either of those things as He will give them to us if we surrender to Him.
#2 The Importance of Legacy
There was a lot of emphasis on Jerry Krause being the villain in the story in Episodes 1 and 2. Unfortunately the man is unable to speak for himself as he passed away in 2017. This brings up the idea of legacy. What would Jerry have wanted to be remembered for? I’m pretty sure he would have wanted to be remembered as the great General Manager who was skilled at negotiating and smart enough to put “pieces together”. He would likely not want to be predominantly remembered as the guy who told the legendary Coach, Phil Jackson that it didn’t matter even if they won “82 games, you’re not coming back”.
Scottie Pippen’s legacy as perhaps the 3rd best NBA player in that era is also being established in this story, only marred by his decision to have ankle surgery so late that he missed a lot of the 1997/98 season because he was upset with that management was disrespecting him by not renegotiating his contract to pay him better.
Ultimately, the documentary so far paints MJ as the superhero – practically flawless. Driven, talented, – just downright amazing- and so MJ’s legacy is well-protected in this version of the story.
But all this fighting over legacy counts for nothing if God is not glorified. Our lives are really a “mist” – we appear for a little while and then we vanish.
True legacy for Christians must be found in whether we fulfilled our God-given callings. Did we do what we were called to do. Did we become the people we were created to become. Did we accomplish what we were made for. Did we reach the people that God wanted us to reach.
Before our final breath – we want to have fulfilled every single thing God wanted us to do. That will be the legacy that counts for something on the other side.
#3 The Importance of Sacrifice
What is also striking to me about the success of the Bulls is the amount of sacrifice that was made. MJ sacrificed practically all of his life at the time to one thing – winning basketball games. His mentality was all about winning basketball games. He risked his own health and career after an early ankle fracture – practically begging for more minutes so that the Bulls could win games even though they had little chance to even make the playoffs at the time. Of course we now know that he then went on to have ridiculous games against the towering Boston Celtics in the playoffs.
We can certainly learn from him. If we are to attain any goal – there must be something that is given up. The greater the goal – the greater the sacrifices that need to be made.
Pippen also had to sacrifice – as he sought security – he sacrificed money.
Jerry Krause – we would speculate – wanted more glory – so he willingly sacrificed the possibility of another championship with the same team.
Each wanted something really bad – and each one of them was willing to give something for it.
Now – if we want to achieve anything in the Kingdom of God – there will have to be sacrifice. You can’t read the bible if you’re playing games. You can’t watch Netflix all day, and meditate on the word of God. For everything that is to be gained – something has to be offered up.
Now – thankfully – for us to receive the approval of God and the love of God – Jesus was the ultimate sacrifice. He gave himself up – so that we could be accepted. He offered his own body as a sacrifice so that we could be healed.
#4 The Importance of Worship
MJ is idolised by millions of people around the world. Larry Bird himself blasphemously said of MJ, “It’s just God disguised as Michael Jordan”
Well of course that was said in jest, but it captures this idea that humans love to worship. We actually want to idolise people. We want to put someone on a pedestal. We want people stronger, better, smarter than us that we can look up to and adore.
Why is that?
It is because God created humans to worship Him. We were created in His image – but there is a difference. We were created with a need to worship. We know from birth – that we are not complete without … well something. So we adore and idolise and crave the attention of those that are bigger, better, wiser, stronger. And that someone should be God, but we often settle for persons far less strong, far less wise, far less perfect.
So, when we don’t worship Him, we will worship someone or something else.
Let us focus our eyes on the one who gave it all for us. Let us adore him and give him all the praise and honour and glory.
As the story of the upcoming episodes unfolds – let us hear what God is saying through the stories of those that seem bigger than life – but at the end of the day are human just like you and me.