The Gospel According to Michael Jordan

Blog / Produced by The High Calling
Default image

One of the most "Christian" thoughts I've ever heard about attitude came from Michael Jordan in 1989. The Chicago Bulls were in south Florida for another NBA regular season game against the Miami Heat. We—all of the sports journalists—had surrounded him with our cameras and microphones following a morning practice.

At that moment in popular culture, everybody wanted to "be like Mike." That's why I posed a question that went something like this, "What would it be like to be Mike right now?"

I asked in a teasing sort of way, with a smile on my face. His answer caught me off guard, because immediately I heard its explosive, spiritual power. I don't have the video tape of that interview today, so I can't give you the direct quotes. But I can tell you what I remember based on what I journaled later that day. It went something like this.

I'm trying to get in the proper frame of mind for another night in our 82-game regular season schedule. The key to being Mike during a game is to live in the exact moment of time. This means that I forget about whatever just happened prior to that moment, regardless of how I felt about it, regardless of whether what I did was perceived as good or bad. When I'm able to prepare myself, when I get in this "zone," I have some of my most spectacular performances. Not only do I not remember anything that happened, I also don't waste any energy thinking about what might happen in the future. When I play this way, at times I surprise myself with what I'm able to accomplish by staying focused in the moment.

I thought about this exchange with Michael Jordan about ten years later in 1998. Down three, at Utah in the decisive sixth game of the NBA Finals, Jordan scored on a drive to the basket, then stole the ball from Karl Malone to set up his game winning shot with 6.6 seconds left.

I also thought about this exchange with Michael Jordan when I first learned about "the sacrament of the present moment." Jean-Pierre de Caussade, an 18th century Jesuit writer and spiritual director, believed the secret to living a Christ-centered life was to surrender to God in the ordinariness of each moment. "The present moment holds infinite riches beyond your wildest dreams," he wrote, "but you will enjoy them only to the extent of your faith and love. For the will of God is manifest in each moment, and the heart can fathom it only as it overflows with faith, trust, and love."

Whitworth religion professor Dr. Jerry Sittser—who lost his wife, Lynda, his daughter, Diana Jane, and his mother, Grace, when a drunk driver missed a curve and smashed into the family's minivan in 1991—has written about this idea of living in the eternal, present moment. "If we give ourselves completely to the moment," Sittser says, "however much the past and the future are beyond our control, strangely we are able to redeem the unchangeable past and prepare for the uncertain future."

It's an elusive question, "What would it be like to be Mike?" But try an attitude adjustment by choosing to live in the present, eternal moment. You just might find out a surprising answer— what it's like to be you.

Image used with permission from Steve Lipofsky.