If you were putting together a basketball team and had the chance to pick Michael Jordan as one of your players, you would almost certainly do so. But back in 1978, Coach Clifton “Pop” Herring had that exact opportunity…and opted not to.
Instead of MJ, he chose a player that most fans have never heard of.
During Jordan’s sophomore year at Laney High School in Wilmington, NC, Jordan tried out for the varsity team even though underclassmen always played for the JV squad. The aggressive young athlete wanted to make the varsity team but when “Pop” posted the varsity team’s final roster in the hallway, Jordan didn’t find his name. However, he did find the name of one of his closest friends, Leroy Smith, a player who stood a whopping 9 inches taller than himself.
(NOTE: Because of this exclusion from the varsity roster, many say that “Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team” when that’s not entirely accurate. He still played ball for the JV squad that same year, and had a fantastically exciting season.)
Coach Clifton’s choice was based purely on height. His team had a disadvantage in that area and he wanted to negate it as much as possible. Since Smith’s frame was taller than Jordan’s, he was picked instead of Jordan. Granted, the basketball court is one place you don’t want to have a height deficit, but picking a player solely for his height isn’t the best strategy, either.
Jordan was so devastated by the decision that he went home and cried. But the event motivated him to train and discipline himself so that he would never be omitted again.
He went on to play for Laney’s varsity squad the following year, earning a scholarship to the University of North Carolina where he also played with brilliance. Then, Jordan went to Chicago to lead “Da Bulls” to 6 NBA Championship titles…as the MVP all 6 times.
Not bad for a “short” guy (who stands 6’6”).
Without taking anything away from Leroy Smith – a fine basketball player in his own rite – picking someone based on their size isn’t always best. In fact, God outright denounced that approach in 1 Samuel 16:6-7 when the prophet Samuel was sent to anoint Israel’s next king.
When they came, he [Samuel] looked on Eliab and thought, “Surely the LORD’s anointed is before him.” But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.”
No one can deny that Jordan played with heart or that King David lived with heart…even though they weren’t the tallest or strongest. When picking your team, look deeper than a person’s physical qualities.
Go with heart as often as you can.
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(Resource cataloged by David R Smith)