WHERE did Michael Jordan get all the mental toughness, the strength and dogged determination to score 38 points in Gave Five of the 1997 National Basketball Association (NBA) Finals?
The night before, Jordan didn’t get enough sleep due to vomiting. Many basketball experts and analysts regard Jordan’s Game Five exploit as the greatest in NBA Finals history. Jordan has said time and again that he can internalize pain—internalize for him is an understatement.
Winners are remembered and their names etched in the annals of sports and the memories of those who witnessed. The late legendary Muhammad “The Greatest” Ali needed 15 rounds to beat the late great Smokin’ Joe Frazier at the “Thrilla in Manila”. Ali dug deep into his bag of legendary tricks to beat the resilient Frazier.
Joe Dumars’s father passed away during Game Three of the 1990 NBA Finals. Dumars scored 33 points for a 2-1 series lead against the Portland Trailblazers. Dumars flew to Louisiana for his father’s wake then flew back to Portland in Oregon for Game Four. Dumars won his second NBA title in five games against the Blazers while playing with a heavy heart. Where did he get the emotional strength to play on? His father probably would’ve told him to keep going.
How do athletes deal with adversity? Where do they get the superhero-like strength to keep going? Is it to silence the critics and naysayers? Is it to prove a point? The hunger for success and winning? The passion and love for the game?
How about Lance Armstrong winning seven Tour de France titles after beating testicular cancer. Doctors told Armstrong he only had six months to live. The Lance Armstrong success story, however, was tainted. His seven Tour de France titles were all taken away from him because of doping.
We’ve heard stories of athletes coming back from career-ending injuries. We’ve heard of athletes overcoming age to succeed. Is Father Time really undefeated when it comes to athletes?
What is an athlete’s motivation to fight through tribulation? Danny Manning and Kansas Jayhawk legend suffered two ACL injuries yet were able to parlay a successful career. Jackie Robinson experienced intense racism, prejudice and discrimination to be one of the greatest players to ever play baseball. Robinson, you see, is African-American and so was Boston Celtic Legend Bill Russell, who experienced racism, prejudice and discrimination in the city he played for.
It’ll be interesting to see the next generation of athletes who never give up despite being faced with tremendous odds. Let’s see what the millennial athletes are made of.
How does one get used to adversity? The simplest answer is to continuously expose oneself to challenging and adverse situations and getting involved in these trying situations means being tested and figuring out what one’s level of tolerance is physically and mentally and getting used to them like night becoming day.