James Jordan was a serviceman and then a textile worker. He studied mechanics under the G.I. Bill and married the former Deloris Peoples. They loved their children.
One son was athletic. James taught and encouraged him. In baseball the kid was good, but in basketball he was extraordinary.
After the son grew up, James was murdered as he slept in his car alongside a highway on a road trip. His body was dumped in a swamp and recovered 10 days later, badly decomposed and identifiable only by dental records. His murderers looted his car.
Among the items the murderer’s stole were two NBA Championship rings given James by that son, Michael.
MJ lives in rarified air with Muhammad Ali, Wayne Gretzky and Pele. He’s one of the very greatest.
An ESPN and Netflix series is out, called “The Last Dance,” about Michael Jordan and his team, the Chicago Bulls. It’s extensively researched and based in part on exclusive video of the 1997-98 season when the Bulls won their sixth NBA Championship in eight years.
The series describes MJ’s close relationship with his dad. His dad was a friend, a confidant and, most important, a father to a son who could have gone bad.
I admire MJ. Not for being a nice guy – I’ve never met him (though I met his coach Phil Jackson who is accomplished and interesting, and I don’t mean that in a bad way) and I suspect that like most achievers he can be difficult. The series so suggests.
What I admire about him is his commitment to excel, and his ability to persuade the people around him do the same by both his example and his demands. All that and — Holy Smokes! — the guy could play the game.
I believe God created us in his image. We can’t be God himself but it is our duty and privilege to resemble his image as best we can, physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. MJ isn’t perfect but in at least his chosen field he was nearly so. And he did it his way.
I’m guessing that he, like most such people, learned that from his dad, James. His dad treated him like his life mattered. Long before a person comes to know God, his dad is his God.
MJ is now a dad to his own children. They’ll never match him in the game of basketball – maybe nobody ever will – but with Michael’s fathering that he learned from his own father, James, they have a fair chance to match him in the game of life. And someday his sons will be good fathers to Michael’s grandsons.
They all know that, to their dads, their lives matter. That – not slogans and identity politics – makes all the difference.