What drove Michael Jordan to be the best? Let’s read, shall we…

“When I got cut from the varsity team as a sophomore in high school, I learned something. I knew I never wanted to feel that bad again. I never wanted to have that taste in my mouth, that hole in my stomach…”

Michael Jordan – perhaps the greatest basketball player ever – was cut from his high school basketball team. And he became a man filled with rage. The object of his anger became the high school coach that cut him – a man by the name of Clifton Herring. When Jordan was inducted into the Hall of Fame, some thirty years later, he still had animosity towards Herring:

“…he [Jordan] flew his old high school teammate, Leroy Smith, to Springfield for the induction. Remember, Smith was the upperclassman his coach, Pop Herring, kept on varsity over him as a high school sophomore. He waggled to the old coach, “I wanted to make sure you understood: You made a mistake, dude.”

Now Michael Jordan is a legend, a man overflowing with self-esteem. His accomplishments are myriad (a plethora dare I say). But what created Jordan’s self-esteem? What was the initial seed? What was the impetus? It’s quite simple, my friends.

REVENGE. The desire to demolish the detractors. The urge to counterpunch, to dissemble those who dared to question his greatness. And from this urge – the desire for REVENGE – Jordan became one of the greatest basketball players ever (if not the best).

The happiness merchants will tell your otherwise. They peddle self-esteem products, trying to drug you with feel-good platitudes. The lies are like sugary sweets; they taste good right away, but then you burn out. Eventually, you’re back to the same place; you feel shitty about yourself.

Realize this: it’s how you REVENGE the negative commentary that feeds your greatness. It’s the desire prove people wrong that sends you to the gym at 2:00 AM. It’s the desire to prove people wrong that makes you study all night. It’s the urge to fight back, to battle relentlessly, that sets you apart.

REVENGE is the father of self-esteem.

7 thoughts on “Revenge is the Father of Self-Esteem

  1. Interesting your theory, as I recall when Michael Jordan made his hall of fame speech and it rounded denounced, especially as people contrasted it with the humility and graciousness of the superb David Robinson, who was inducted the same day. Article after article like this one ran in the sports media:


    And I don’t think it was envy. Everyone knew Michael was the greatest and deserved to be there. But there was no reason why such a revered sports figure should have been unable to display magnanimity.

    Self-esteem is actually a cursed thing to need to chase. Confidence born of a lack of desire to prove anything to anyone is much, much better.

    But I’m just some opinionated girl, LOL.

      1. I’m familiar with the adage that “living well is the best revenge”. There is a grain of truth to it. Ideally however, one reaches a place where the personal revelation of how far you’ve come overshadows anything or anyone who doubted whether you had what it took.

        For whatever reason, Michael Jordan never seemed to find that place which would have -as you say- been easier on his spirit and not have resulted in people smiling for him during his speech and then lambasting him later for being a petty, immature 46-year-old. And then doing the one thing he was trying to make overcome: Negative comparisons of himself to someone who did it better.

        My daddy used to say that “balance is the key to life”, and I think that applies here. The total package matters. Good fortune and success are most attractive when wrapped in magnanimity and are dimmed when accentuated with bitterness.

        We should view disappointments as opportunities to achieve and refrain from viewing detractors as personal enemies. Then we can do what you do and have peace, for better or worse. It’s interesting because we generally say that it’s girls who never get beyond high school.

        Appreciate the indulgence, Major.

      2. “My daddy used to say that “balance is the key to life”, and I think that applies here. The total package matters.”

        Very true. Note how many athletes/famous people are detested by their adult children. Needless to say, if you’re own kids hate you, something went wrong regardless of the fame you had.

      3. “Good fortune and success are most attractive when wrapped in magnanimity and are dimmed when accentuated with bitterness.”

        I’ll have to do an article on some of the magnanimous winners. I know there are a few out there, for sure. In terms of basketball, I think Magic Johnson qualifies as one.

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