Emotional Intelligence and The Last Dance

Jun 1991: Series MVP and guard Michael Jordan of the Chicago Bulls hugs the championship trophy while surrounded by his father and wife after the Bulls defeated the Los Angeles Lakers four games to one in the series at the Great Western Forum in Inglewood. 

Over the next two nights I, along with 100 million other people, will be watching the final two episodes of The Last Dance, the brilliant new series available on Netflix. The series examines the triumph of the Chicago Bulls in the 1990s, who twice executed threepeats as NBA Champions, and in particular the personality and character of Michael Jordan.

If you are a sports fan you have to see it. If you want to improve your emotional intelligence it is mandatory viewing. Besides analysing Jordan, the series spend three episodes examining in detail Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman and the coach Phil Jackson. Wearing the 7MTF-Humm glasses it is easy to see that these three are all Artists. Each of them is highly individualistic, passively stubborn and beat to a different drum. How they become part of the most successful team in basketball history is a terrific story. And the answer is simple; their leader was one of the biggest Politicians to walk this planet.

Michael Jordan’s desire to win defies belief. You first see it when ever losing twice to the Detroit Pistons in the Eastern Conference finals finally beat them. Stupidly the Pistons walk off, refusing to shake hands and offer congratulations. The Piston underestimate Jordan’s resentment towards slights received and his desire for revenge. Not only does immediately start fanatically training to increase his strength, he ensures that the Piston’s best player Isiah Thomas is snubbed for the 1992 Olympics Dream Team.

When Jordan finally wins his first NBA Championship in 1991 the emotional output is incredible. However, he then sets himself the goal of winning three championships in a row. He subsequently retires but then comes back and repeats the feat. Jordan summed up his philosophy with this reflection: “You can ask all my teammates: ‘One thing about Michael Jordan, he didn’t ask me to do one thing that he didn’t f—— do,’ ” he continued. “When people see this, [they will think]: ‘Well, he wasn’t really a nice guy. He may have been a tyrant.’ No. That’s you. You never won anything. I wanted to win, but I wanted [my teammates] to win and be a part of that as well.” In Jordan’s striking and unforgiving binary, mankind is composed of winners who are willing to invest themselves completely and losers who aren’t.

The episode that I really liked was when coach Phil Jackson modified the Triangle Offense of his lead assistant Tex Winter. Jordan is frank and bluntly funny in recounting his resistance to go from Collins’s system, which orbited around and depended upon Jordan’s brilliance on both ends, to Jackson’s more team-oriented one. “I didn’t want Bill Cartwright to touch the ball with five seconds left,” he says, “that’s not equal opportunity offense, that’s fucking bullshit. So many times Tex would yell at me, ‘Move the ball, move the ball, there’s no I in team.’ Well I would reply there’s an ‘I’ in ‘win.’”

In terrific footage you see epiphany dawn on Jordan that drawing two defenders and the quickly passing the ball he could set up another undefended teammate to make an easy three pointer. The episode finishes with the famous 1993 final where the Bulls were down by two in the last seconds of Game 6 being held at the America West Arena in Phoenix, Arizona. Paxson shoots a wide-open three point shot with 3.9 seconds remaining, giving the Bulls a 99-98 lead and their third consecutive NBA title.

The old adage holds true: A champion team will always beat a team of champions.

This blog was first published on LinkedIn on 18 May 2020.




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