When Michael Jordan stepped onto the court, he played for nothing short of victory. He was a driven, committed, passionate athlete who was intolerant of mediocrity. But he didn’t just play that way; he lived that way, as well.
Just ask his most-trusted friend, Fred Whitfield.
For almost as long as Michael Jordan played basketball, Fred Whitfield had been by #23’s side. Across the years, Whitfield served Jordan as an agent, a consultant, a business partner, and more. In the book Driven From Within, Whitfield recounted an experience that sprang from a visit MJ paid to Whitfield at his home in Greensboro, NC. After catching up, the two of them decided to go out for dinner. Jordan said to Whitfield, “Man, it’s kind of cold. Can I borrow one of your jackets?” Being a good friend, Whitfield obliged and told the basketball star to grab anything he wanted from his closet.
MJ ducked into the bedroom to grab a jacket while Whitfield waited.
Finally, MJ emerged from the closet in the other room carrying not just one jacket, but several, along with a few pairs of shoes, and other articles of clothing, as well. Each of the pieces had one thing in common: the Puma logo, a competitor to MJ’s Nike brand. (Whitfield’s closet was half-filled with Nike apparel because of his relationship with Jordan, and half-filled with Puma gear due to his friendship with Ralph Sampson, another basketball player.)
Jordan tossed the clothes into a pile on the floor and then disappeared into the kitchen. When he returned a moment later, Jordan was wielding a butcher knife. According to Whitfield, Jordan took the knife and began cutting and ripping the Puma gear into tiny little shreds. When he was satisfied with their destruction, he picked up every scrap and walked it out to the dumpster.
When Jordan reappeared in the door, he said, “Hey dude, call Howard (a rep at Nike) tomorrow and tell him to replace all of this. But don’t ever let me see you in anything other than Nike. You can’t ride the fence.”
You can’t ride the fence.
That’s the same advice the prophet Elijah gave to the nation of Israel long ago:
Ahab went to meet Elijah. When he saw Elijah, he said to him, “Is that you, you troubler of Israel?” “I have not made trouble for Israel,” Elijah replied. “But you and your father’s family have. You have abandoned the LORD’s commands and have followed the Baals. Now summon the people from all over Israel to meet me on Mount Carmel. And bring the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal and the four hundred prophets of Asherah, who eat at Jezebel’s table.” So Ahab sent word throughout all Israel and assembled the prophets on Mount Carmel. Elijah went before the people and said, “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow Him; but if Baal is God, follow him.” (1 Kings 18:16-21)
Get off the fence! Choose God…and let your decision reflect that in life.
Driven from Within by Michael Jordan and Mark Vancil. Atria Books, 2005, Page 110.
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(Resource cataloged by David R Smith)