Tomorrow, Tuesday, I’ll turn 60 years of age.
I’ve seen a lot. As Johnny Cash said, I’ve been everywhere, man.
So after watching ESPN’s “The Last Dance,” a series on Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls, I took a moment to reflect.
Yes, I shook my head, trying to grasp that 1998, when the Bulls won their sixth NBA title with Jordan, is now 22 years in the rearview mirror.
Yet my hope for those younger isn’t to take away from the series the greatness of Jordan or those Bulls. It’s to consider the larger picture that was so poignantly painted at the end of the series’ finale.
It’s the bigger picture that even dynasties come to an end. It’s the bigger picture that you must grind. You must take it all in. You must enjoy and celebrate. And not waste a minute.
And it all comes from one place, as told by Jordan himself.
“It started with hope,” Jordan said, before reiterating. “It started with hope.”
That’s where it must start, correct? That’s what’s been carrying us through these days of pandemic, right? That’s the seed of every successful venture, every personal goal.
Of course, more is necessary.
In the case of the Bulls dynasty, that “more” was Jordan.
“All it needed was one match to start that whole fire,” he reflected near the series’ conclusion.
In the case of mere mortals, replace “match” with “passion.”
Anyway, the end of the series was a beautiful way to bring everything full circle.
After 1998, the Bulls could have been brought back for a run at a seventh title. There was a flicker of hope when team owner Jerry Reinsdorf offered coach Phil Jackson another contract year. But it was not to be.
“Time to go,” said Jackson.
The beauty was the way the team dismantled. It could have done so unceremoniously. Instead, it was done so in an unforgettable way. At least it was done in a way I hope our younger generation will remember. For it tied the big picture together perfectly.
“I remember there was this team meeting with Phil,” said former Bulls guard and current Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr. “It was like, ‘This is it.’”
“My wife had gotten her master’s in social work,” Jackson said. “And she was part of a group that went in to help people who were grieving. One of the things they did was an old ritual to put things to rest.”
“He asked everybody to bring in anything [they] wanted to write about what the team means to them,” Kerr said.
“I said, ‘Write what being on this team has meant to you,” Jackson said. “Read it and then we’ll burn it in a coffee can.”
A terrific image.
“Every guy had emotional words to say,” Kerr said. “I remember Michael actually wrote a poem.”
“Phil had this knack – no matter how big you were or how big you thought you were – to always draw you in to be a part of the process,” Jordan added. “I’m not a poet; I just spoke what I felt at the time. We’d always bonded. I said, ‘Thanks for the past. Let’s make sure we end it right.’”
One can imagine the scene. Large, talented NBA players pouring out their hearts – after doing so on the court. One by one reading and placing their words in the coffee can.
“At the end of the session,” Kerr said, “Phil turned out the lights and lit the papers. It was one of the most powerful things I’ve ever seen.”
It had to be powerful. It was certainly symbolic.
Hope can turn to greatness.
The match can blaze yet someday turn to ash.
So be the match now, young ones. Work hard. Live, love.
To make sure you always go out the right way.
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Mitch Vingle covered sports in West Virginia for 38 years. Follow Mitch on Twitter at @MitchVingle and be sure to check out the rest of Wheelhouse Creative’s website for your marketing and advertising needs. If interested, call us at 304-905-6005.