Today is MJ’s 50th birthday.  And reports abound that Michael wants to come back and play.  He just beat a player on his own Charlotte Bobcats team in a game of one-on-one.  The fire is still buring, no question about it.

I grew up in Northwest Indiana a huge Chicago Bulls fan when Jordan brought two three-peats to the windy city.  He was my hero, he was everyone’s here, and watching him play filled a void.  He brought happiness to our work and lives.  He showed us what true greatness was all about.

So what made Michael Jordan Michael Jordan?  There were three virtues that Michael had (and arguably still has) that separated him from everyone else; virtues that made him the greatest basketball player of all time.

1.  Skill.  Michael’s basketball skills -his chops – were far and above anyone that has ever played the game.  His moves defied physics, his dribbling and passing always razor sharp, and his shooting form a picture of perfection.  Michael could do anything with a basketball, and his ability to get to the rim and score against anyone and everyone was jaw-dropping – a nightly highlight on Sports Center’s Top Plays.

Jordan’s skill is mezmorizing; your eyes glued to the screen hoping you don’t miss something.  Kobe has had many flashes of brilliance, LeBron is as dominant as they come, and Magic and Bird were legendary and had a rivalry that will never be matched.  But nothing comes close to watching Jordan play.

As MJ’s career progressed, his skill at making his teammates better also deserves merit.  Before Phil Jackson became coach, the Bulls were unable to win a championship.  But after Jackson’s Zen philosophies of teamwork and harmony started to take hold, the Bulls and Jordan won 6 championships.      

2.  Hunger.  Michael’s hunger and drive were second to none.  His determnination and obsession with winning is what drives him to this day.  Stories tell us that he would want to whip you in checkers, cards, horse, and most of all golf.  His competitive fire was fierce, and if you stood in his way, he’d run you over.  Winning and being the best, and then getting his teammates to be the best, is what drove him.

This is why Michael gave baseball a try.  He had an insatiable hunger to succeed – to conquer that sport.  He also considered doing the same with professional golf.  In the end, his hunger to prove himself in basketball over and over and over again was enough.  Or was it?

Probably the best example of Jordan’s hunger was what has come to be known as, “the sick game” during the 1997 finals against Utah.  According to Joshua Santos of ESPN, “Jordan had a stomach virus, food poisoning and could barley move. Despite this, Jordan scored 15 points in the fourth quarter and made the game-winning three-point shot.  The Bulls won that game 90-88 and Jordan [went on to win] his fifth championship.

When Jordan was feeling at his worst, not wanting to move, not wanted to do anything, possibly at his lowest point at that time, he was hungry. Hungry for a fifth championship. Even when he felt at his worst he got out of bed and went to work. Most players would’ve sat out three games with the slightest sign of sickness, but Jordan persevered and went to work. He was hungry for success. He also knew his team need him.”

3.  Consistency.  Arguably Michael’s most impressive virtue of his success was his consistency.  He gave 100% effort in practices and in games, on the road and at home, and against the best team in the league as well as the worst.  He never took a night off.  He never phoned it in.

According to Bob Greene of the Chicago Tribune, “Mike played every game as if it were his last because he knew that in the stands were some fans who would never see him play again, other than that night.”

What an incredible appraoch and attitude to have!  What if you were in a similar position to influence others by delivering the same kind of consistency as Michael Jordan?  What would people say if they came to your workplace for a day and watched you do your job?  Regardless of which day they visited, would they get your best?  Would they be inspired on that day by watching you do what you do?

Thanks Michael for the inspiration to work toward excellence.  You will always be the standard.  Happy 5oth!