Sample text for For the love of the game : my story / by Michael Jordan ; edited by Mark Vancil.


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Counter After we beat Georgetown for the Championship, I told my father about the dream. He paused for a moment and said, "Your life will never be the same after that shot. Your life is going to change son." I thought, "Well, that's just my father talking. Of course he's going to think that about his son. And besides, no one really knows one way or another." I never paid much attention to what my father said that day--until now.

When I think of my career, where I have come from, where it all began, and all that I have accomplished along the way, I realize everything did change after that game. Not just basketball but my life. I think my father saw some things in me that I couldn't see in myself. At first, I just thought it was a father's pride, the voicing of hopes and dreams for a son to be successful. I saw his comments more in the context of a motivational speech a father might give a son.

I can't say for sure that way back then he envisioned what would happen to me. But I look at my children now and I can detect certain attributes-which of them is going to be the better athlete, who is going to be more successful, what kind of work they will do. I can tell you some of those things about my children, so I'm pretty sure my father was able to do the same with us. Maybe he could tell whether one of his children had a special talent, a special sense of himself. Maybe he knew one of his sons, for whatever reason, was touched by some special spiritual inspiration.

You could go back two or three generations and find one person maybe 6-foot-2. But it's not enough that I'm bigger than the norm for my family. I have this special ability. I have an older brother, Larry, who has the same heart, the same kind of ability I do, and yet he's only 5-foot-8. This is a guy who will still play me one-on-one in a heartbeat. Despite all I've achieved in basketball, Larry believes he can win. Yet he never got the same opportunities. So I think about that now. Why me? I do believe my father knew. I believe he saw things unfolding in a way that no one, not me, not the Chicago Bulls, or anyone else saw. I believe that's a father's gift. I only wish I could talk to him now. How much of all this did he really see?

During my mother's pregnancy with me, my mother's mother died unexpectedly. The doctors made my mother stay in bed because they were worried about a miscarriage. According to my father, there was a near miscarriage and there was some question as to whether I would make it or not. I was born with a nose bleed and my parents were worried that there was something wrong with me. Later on, when I was a baby, I fell behind my parents' bed and almost suffocated. Then, when I was about two years old I picked up two wires next to a car my father was working on. It had been raining and again, according to my father, the shock sent me flying about three feet. There wee a lot of things that happened even as I got older that could have changed everything. I mean, my girlfriend got swept away in a flood and drowned when we were in college. Another time, I was swimming with a friend when both of us got pulled into the ocean by a strong undertow. I was able to get free and make it back to land. He never made it back. How can you say there isn't a plan for us all?

Juanita and I were married before the 1989-90 season in the Little White Chapel in Las Vegas in front of a few friends. There was a reason for me getting married and having children. That experience of being a husband and a father provided a balance and a focus away from basketball. I could have gotten myself in trouble, I don't know what kind of trouble, but if I had been single, playing basketball, and making a lot of money, I could have made some wrong decisions. That's why I think our lives unfolded the way they did for a reason. When my first son was born, I felt like I became a man in a sense. There was a new level of maturity. Now I was responsible for that child and for the mother of that child. Not tomorrow or the next day, but every minute of every day. I couldn't think selfishly anymore. There continue to be sacrifices based on the commitment I have to my family. But it has always been good for me. It provided balance. During that time they didn't know me as anything but Daddy. They didn't know anything about Michael Jordan the superstar basketball player who did all kinds of endorsement deals. I was a father and a husband. They wouldn't have allowed me to be anything else. That was fine with me.

I had won scoring titles and most valuable player awards, but the only way I was going to break into the Magic Johnson-Larry Bird class was to win championships. That's why our first championship was a little sweeter. There was no way I was going to get into their circle without winning a championship when at least one of them was still on top. Magic and Larry had been the kings of the 1980s in terms of championships. In 1991, the challenge was right there in front of me. Magic was considered the consummate team player, the guy that made everyone around him better. I wasn't perceived as a player who made everyone better and I knew I wouldn't be until we won a title. Beating Magic added credibility to that first title. By going through the Lakers there was nothing anyone could say.

Until the 1991-92 season there really hadn't been much written or said negatively about me. After we won the first championship there wasn't anything anyone could really say about my basketball anymore so they started looking at me personally. I admit, I made some mistakes. They weren't huge mistakes, not the kind that change your life. But I also stood up and faced the fire. The gambling stories were situations I put myself in and I was responsible for my actions. By the way I dealt with those situations, particularly the gambling issue, was human. I made a mistake and I faced the heat. To some degree I think people started seeing me as more like them, more of a person with problems and issues. The way I had been perceived up to that point really wasn't reality. It was a difficult time, but I grew up. I was no longer just playing a game that paid me a lot of money and earned me the adoration of millions of fans. It wasn't that simple anymore, and in some ways it wasn't that pure, either. I was experiencing basketball as a business, on and off the court. I didn't make any serious mistakes, I didn't have trouble with alcohol, drugs, or anything like that, but I wasn't some kind of perfect person that floated above life's day-to-day issues.

My father's death ended one of the most successful and difficult periods of my life. He was my best friend and he knew everything about me. He knew things that were going to happen to me long before they happened. The light side of my personality comes from my father. He was a people person and he had a great sense of humor. He taught me a lot about life, and one of those lessons was that everything happens for a reason. That's why I was able to remain positive about life, my life, after my father's death. I look at that experience as God's way of telling me it was time to stand up and make decisions by myself. I no longer had the support and guidance of my father to fall back on. It was my time to become more mature in my approach to life. Everything I had done to that point, from basketball to business, I passed by my parents. I valued their opinion and to some extent felt I needed their guidance. When he died I realized I had to start making those decisions independent of everyone else. I could still ask for advice and I would listen, but the responsibility was mine alone. I had to make the kind of decisions men make and I had to make them for myself without that shoulder to lean on.

That doesn't mean he's not here with me every moment. I can feel him. I know he's with me. I have all the life lessons and teachings he provided me in the 30 years I was around him. And I have his voice, his presence. I know he's watching. I know he's reacting to my success, the way my children are growing and how my life with Juanita has grown. So I look back at that period and his death as a test. But I also know I'll be taking that test for the rest of my life.


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