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Willie Richardson / June 17, 2020

Michael Jordan Had a Dad

Do you know what separates the greatest from the rest? His relationship with his father.

Growing up, if there was one person I saw outside of my home that inspired me, it was NBA great Michael Jordan. It was his style, athletic prowess, gifted leadership, and mental dominance. He was unbreakable in his pursuit to win, achieve, and compete at all levels. He didn’t cower to his opponents, but overcame every obstacle placed before him. However, there was something that stood out to me more than anything. Someone who gets overlooked in society: Michael Jeffrey Jordan had a dad.

“He was my rock,” Jordan says of his father. “We were very close. He constantly gave me advice. I remember I was in the ninth grade and I got suspended three times in one year. My father pulled me aside that summer and said, ‘You don’t look like you’re headed in the right direction. If you go about doing all this mischievous stuff, you can forget about sports.’ That’s all I needed to hear. From that point on, I never got into any more trouble. I had tunnel vision.”

This is the power of a father. When teenage boys begin doing teenage boy stuff, there are only two options: Stay a fool or become a king. Every teenage boy has a fool and a king in him and, depending on whether a father is there to guide him, he will feed one or the other. Whichever he feeds is who he will become. Dads put an end to foolishness and empower the king in their sons. If it were not for Michael’s dad, he might have been another negative black male statistic.

James Jordan was an anchor to him. A constant comrade and an avid supporter. He said of his son, “To tell you how proud I am I’d have to search for more words.” Dads encourage their sons to be their best. Giving him pats on the back and a few “atta boys” fuels his fire. Sons need their dads to put logs of wood on the fire to keep the ashes from burning out and the fire aflame within.

“He’s a voice of reason that has always challenged me,” Jordan said. That’s the type of father I had. One of the things he taught me was that you have to take a negative and turn it into a positive. When Michael lost his father to a murder on the side of the road, he was crushed. Again, the influence of a father teaches his son that endurance and perseverance matters. Dads don’t sit back and let things happen, they challenge the heart of their children. They expect the best because they see the best in their sons and daughters. Toxic masculinity isn’t what most think it is. Toxic masculinity is the no risk, milk toast, mushy way.

Jordan and his father had always discussed him playing baseball, so in honor of his dad he went for it. Jordan said, “The last conversation with his dad was a debate with playing baseball.” Jordan went for it! He couldn’t care less what others had to say. He didn’t do things to please others, because he stood on the shoulders of his dad. Michael Jordan wanted his father’s approval deeply. His older brother was closest to his dad, but Jordan wanted in on some of that attention. His competitive drive came from being told what he couldn’t do by his father, which turned into what we saw as the greatest performer on a basketball court one could ever imagine. His father’s love motivated him to believe in himself. His father’s constructive criticism pushed him to being the competitive maniac we all witnessed.

What if every child had a James Jordan? What if sons were challenged by their dads when they were acting foolish in life? What if daughters felt the love of an encouraging word when they were feeling discouraged? What if we took fatherhood seriously in our nation? Would we see so many snowflakes in society? Would prisons be filled with our sons? Would abortion clinics be overflowing with our daughters? Would there be participation trophies being handed out to the losers? Would feminism rule? Would misogyny reign? These are the questions we need to examine as dads. Why? Because dads make the difference.

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