It was Game 5 of the 1997 NBA Finals. The legendary story begins the night before with a late-night pizza order. Chicago Bulls star Michael Jordan ends up eating an entire pizza and wakes up around 2:30 a.m. not feeling so well.
Through the night and the next day, Jordan displays the typical flu symptoms. He is visibly weak and appears sick. Somehow, he manages to dress and play in Game 5. The results, of course, are one of the reasons why Jordan is considered the greatest player to ever play the game.
Jordan would score 38 points, grab seven rebounds, dish out five assists, and record three steals. For Jordan to do all that while fighting what most people thought was the flu is simply amazing. It’s also a valuable lesson in leadership.
When You’re Weak
Just because you are a leader doesn’t mean you will always be at your strongest. There will come times when you are weak. Think about Superman around Kryptonite or Achilles and his heel. There will be a time when you are weak, but you must respond.
In Game 5 of the 1997 NBA Finals, Michael Jordan may have never been weaker. Still, he managed to find the resources to get the job done. The job was too simply beat the Utah Jazz and win. Jordan was able to reach deep inside of himself and will himself to play like the superstar that he was.
When you’re at your weakest, dig deep to find the resources necessary to complete the job.
Make Your Teammates Better
Jordan was not his typical self early in Game 5 and everyone could see it. He found those resources to help him score 17 points in the second quarter and cut Utah’s first-half lead to 53-49. What he was also able to do was make the players around him better.
When your teammates see you struggling but fighting through something, they become inspired. Scottie Pippen didn’t shoot well, but he still scored 17 points and had a team-high 10 rebounds for Chicago. Seven-footer Luke Longley made 6-of-7 shots and scored 12 points. Toni Kukoc came off the bench to hit 3-of-4 three-pointers and add nine points.
Every single point counted in the 90-88 Chicago victory. Most of those points came from Jordan, but he also made his teammates better. He inspired them with his gutty play fighting through illness to finish one of the most incredible performances in NBA history and provide us with a leadership lesson learned.