Friday, September 21, 2007


When Michael Jordan “first” retired from basketball (he later “came back” ), commentators were philosophizing on his
retirement’s impact on the game of basketball, and the Chicago Bulls. The bigger story? The factors that led up to his stunning
decision to give up what he was doing, very, very successfully.

1. Physical fatigue. To understand what led to Jordan’s decision you had to go back to the previous off-season - an off-season
Jordan never had because he participated in the Olympic Games in Barcelona. When in the midst of a run of three NBA
championships, you don’t take time off, away from basketball, you are taking your battery down to zero. Perhaps Jordan chose
retirement because it was the only way he could envision ever recharging.

2. Emotional processing. In the previous three years, too many stressful things happened in Jordan’s life, with no time to really
process the magnitude of the events. No sooner had he won a championship, than they were talking about a repeat. Then
there was the Dream Team. Then there were gambling allegations. Then there was a three-peat. Then there was the death of
his father. Events of this magnitude take time for our souls to process. This was time Jordan never had.

3. No vision. By Jordan’s own admission, the fun left the game when his vision did. “There’s nothing left for me to accom-
plish.” When we lose sight of long-term goals and objectives our lives take on a treadmill effect. We keep running but we’re
not getting anywhere. Jordan finally said, “Stop the treadmill, I want to get off.”

4. Over-exposure. People who are not “in-fronters” probably don’t relate to the pressure of having your life scrutinized and, in
a sense, owned by the masses. This lack of privacy can be confining and restricting. The life of a public person is not his own.
Perhaps Jordan sensed that the only way to take by his private life was to no longer be a public person.

There is a syndrome that afflicts people who are in a place where they must give a lot of themselves to others. You don’t have
to play basketball to experience these factors that can lead you to want to throw in the towel. To face these factors without
retirement life must be lived rythmically. The mixture of the sabbath (six parts labor; one part rest) must be dutifully
maintained if we expect to stay in the game.

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