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Michael   &   Me

Most people appreciate Michael Jordan as a premier athlete who can
run fast, jump high and routinely deliver in the clutch. To them,
he's simply physically superior to his contemporaries.

All this is true, but there are other truths about Michael that are
not so easily seen: his understanding of team concepts, his
competitive drive and his compassion. It's these hidden truths that
form the deepest bond between Michael and me.

I must confess to being spoiled by Michael's leadership and his
ability to rise to every competitive occasion. He could easily
average around 35 points a game, but he's committed to team goals and
to making his teammates more effective.

After coaching him for eight seasons, I still marvel at how much
Michael's enthusiasm energizes us, even at practice. I mean, he never
takes a day off. As a player, I had only modest skills, so I had
always had to operate at maximumeffort to compete. His work ethic is
an important personal bond between us.

The thing about Michael is, he takes nothing for granted. When he
first came to the NBA back in 1984, he was primarily a penetrator.
His outside shooting wasn't up to pro standards. So he put in his gym
time during the off-season, shooting hundreds of shots each day.
Eventually. he became a deadly three-point shooter.

Playing outstanding defense didn't come automatically to him, either.
He had to study his opponents, learn their favourite moves and then
dedicate himself to learning the techniques necessari to stop them.
He's worked extremely hard to perfect his footwork and his balance.

Nowadays, so many  kids come into the league with arrogant attitudes,
thinking that their talent is all they need to succeed. By contrast,
there's a certain humility in Michael's willingness to take on the
difficult work of making himself a more complete player. For me, one
of the signs of Michael's greatness is that he turned his weaknesses
into strengths.

Another of the qualities I most respect in Michael is his demeanor on
the court. There are so many young players who play with anger,
taunting one another and beating their chests after a dunk. These
guys are chiefly in terested in ego gratification.

Micahel's model for on-court demeanor was Julius Erving. The only
time I've ever seen Michael go jaw-to-jaw with another player was in
a 1992 playoff game against the Knicks. Patrick Ewing, Charles Oakley
and Xavier McDaniel were trying to knock the stuffing out of Scottie
Pippen, and Michael got into Ewing's face about it. Michael wasn't
crowing about a spectacular play or trying to build himself up by
tearing someone else down. He was just standing up for a teammate. It
was a courageous act of leadership.

Being Michael's coach has been an unmitigated joy. But even more
important than our professional relationship, I consider Michael to
be a friend. It's undeniable that Michael has been elevated to an
exalted status in our culture---you can hardly turn on the TV without
seeing him endorsing some product or other. But through it all, he
remains an authentic person, not taken in by his own celebrity.

Every season, he makes himself available to dozens of children who
belongs to the Make A Wish Foundation---children with fatal diseases.
Imagine how difficult it is to approach these kids with cheer and
goodwill. Yet in a totally sincere way, Micahel outs then at ease,
lets them have a laugh and makes it possible for them to enjoy
basketball.

After Michael retires, I only hope that the young players who come to
the fore---players like Grant Hill and Kobe Bryant---will be
influenced by Michael's demeanor and by his sense of
unselfishcompetitiveness. More than his championship rings, I hope
this will be Michael's legacy.