Jordan, unlike Trump, saw that individual success does not make one truly great. He could have been content with being known as the greatest talent of all time, a man who could score seemingly at will. Instead, he dedicated himself to making his team the greatest of all time.
The documentary details the steps to which Jordan would go to make the Chicago Bulls great. He relentlessly pushed his teammates to buy into his vision. At times his drive took dark turns: He would bully and intimidate them in practice and off the court, going so far as to punch a teammate in the eye when he stood up to him. Nothing would stop Jordan from making the Bulls into a championship squad.
But Jordan also let others take star turns. The Bulls did not become champions until they hired Phil Jackson to coach in the 1990-1991 season. He instituted the now-legendary triangle offense, which emphasized passing and letting people besides Jordan take the shots. Jordan bought into a system that lessened his role because he believed it would improve the team.
Jordan also worked ferociously hard on details. He put on 15 pounds of muscle after losing to the Detroit Pistons in 1989-1990 so that he could withstand that team’s punishing physical battering. He rebuilt an aging body when he came back from his first retirement so that he could again mount the summit and regain the NBA title. He didn’t rely on his considerable raw ability. He worked constantly to improve.
Trump seems incapable of any of this. His lack of loyalty to associates and employees is legendary. He cannot step back and let others lift the load if it means those others also get the credit. Anyone who watches his coronavirus news conferences see this in action, as he refuses to let his administration’s public health officials, such as National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony S. Fauci and U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator Deborah Birx, take the lead. They are always subordinate to his ego, even as polls show that the public trusts them more. Jordan made the Bulls great by stepping back. Trump can’t do that even if it would mean making America great.
Trump also can’t change his game even to save himself. It’s been obvious since his inauguration that Trump could win people over by softening his persona and learning to stay above the daily fray. Instead, he continues to vent at news conferences, rambles in his answers to mundane or pointed questions and displays a personal pique no matter what. Jordan knew that less can be more. Trump is like a great general who takes more risks because he believes himself to be invincible. Those people, like Caesar and Napoleon, usually find their arrogance gets the best of them.
Michael Jordan is not an admirable man. His pettiness and ability to hold grudges over meaningless slights tarnish his legacy. But he’s not interested in your love. He’s interested in winning — and at that, he’s one of the greatest ever.
Jordan was so beloved at the height of his fame that Gatorade made a famous commercial called “Be Like Mike.” If Trump could be more like Mike, he’d be cruising to reelection. Instead, it’s increasingly likely that Election Day will be Trump’s last dance.