Michael Jordan: Lessons for Chess

Michael Jordan always sought the toughest competition.

Michael Jordan is perhaps one of the world’s most recognized sports names even long after he has retired. He has been viewed as the best competitive basketball player ever to play the game. Of course arguments can be made for Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell, Elgin Baylor, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson, but there is one player that seems to be on everyone’s top five list… Michael Jordan.

Recently Ahmad Rashad sat down with his longtime friend and conducted a 45-minute interview about his career, team chemistry, rivaliries, personal challenges, retirements and even the “Dream Team”.

One thing that sticks out in the interview is Jordan’s candor and his credibility. Certainly winning six NBA championships in six attempts helps one’s credibility, but to reveal some of the inner workings of the mind in such a great career can be applied to so many different scenarios.

Michael Jordan hit this game-winner to win his sixth championship in six tries. In his interview, he makes very surprising admissions about his second retirement after this epic storybook ending.

Of course chessplayers only have themselves to rely on, but FM Warren Elliott posted this video on a Jamaican Facebook page and said, “You could learn a lot from that guy.” Anyone at the top of his field must have a wealth of knowledge. If we look at the intensity of Garry Kasparov, Serena Williams or Usain Bolt, we will see talent and execution meet opportunity… making a champion.

Michael “Air” Jordan

As Mark Bowen’s popular article on lateral thinking, many of these lessons are transferable and applicable to other sports. In the following interview, we can take away many valuable nuggets of wisdom of determination, competitiveness and discipline.

All of these attributes champions possess. If there is anyone who can tell us about championship, it is Jordan. This interview is 46 minutes and shows authentic footage and behind-the-scenes dynamics of a great competitor. Take a listen to this exclusive interview.


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Daaim Shabazz

Daaim Shabazz is the founder of The Chess Drum, while serving as a tenured faculty member of Global Business & Marketing at Florida A&M University in Tallahassee, Florida, USA. He holds a B.S. Computer Science from Chicago State University, an MBA in Marketing and a Ph.D. in International Affairs & Development, both from Clark Atlanta University. He has served the journalist community for more than 30 years and still competes in tournaments occasionally.

20 Comments

  1. As great as Michael was he must share credit with the league who needed to replace and renew the era of Magic, Bird, and Dr. J. In addition, credit must also be shared with the Zen master “Phil” who elevated a good basketball player from “jock” to a “social icon” and an average basketball team to a cohesive dominant force. It is kind of sad that Michael was so dominant that the NBA is now saying his career outshines the present day players. His presence and accolades are kept in the back room. Oops! We are taking chess right! Should we compare Carlsen to Michael as a dominant force? I think not since it appears not to matter. Like basketball and almost any other game anyone can play and enjoy but it takes refined skills to excel. Similar to other successful goal in life to be great requires personal drives, determination and intensity.

  2. Jordan was unbelievable! And in this interview he shared some real practical ideas on what it takes to reach the peak level of any competitive sports. Good coach, maintaining psychological edge, discipline, preparation and resolve. Valuable stuff!

    1. Enjoyed this segment. I got a lot out of it especially since I followed the Bulls very closely in those years. It was good to see the mental preparation and behind-the-scenes action. In the upcoming match, I can imagine the same process going on. I have already read stories about the preparation of Carlsen. He and Anand could probably learn from watching this video. This match will reveal whether Carlsen is able to handle the pressure of the biggest stage that Jordan thrived in (and invited). Anand has proven he can handle the pressure, but being in his hometown will present a new challenge for him. So far this is the biggest stage Carlsen has been on so far.

      1. Question? Did Jordan make Pippen great or did Pippen make Jordan great? Not just partial since he went to my college Alma Mata but Pippen was a great athlete with the ability to run for days and covered half the court on defense.

        1. According to Jordan the interview, they pushed each other. I remember when we drafted Pippen. Jordan had never heard of him… and nobody else either. They were calling Pippen soft, but he had a tremendous work ethic and was a physical specimen. Jordan respected that. That’s why it was such a shock when Pippen started the Lebron talk.

          I believe what made the Bulls so great was the preparation and ability to use the abilities of everyone to the maximum. People are saying Magnus can adjust to any position, but I’m still wondering about his psychological makeup. I’m not convinced. Champions typically are wired differently. Anand is cool as an iceberg and rarely loses.

          When Carlsen loses it usually in a bad way… hanging a piece, or some gross opening debacle. If Carlsen goes down early, it could be hard for him to adjust since he’ll start taking risks.

        2. I am not being hard on Michael but many people have not seen a player as gifted as Michael. There was this one high school guard back in the late 60’s early 70’s who was 6’3 or 6’4 quick as a snake, jump shot was 2 or 3 feet off the ground, could shoot the 35+ footer or dazzle with the prettiest dunk over any center. He had this one shoot where he would run/dribble top speed to the right corner baseline turn on a dime jump out of bound falling away with a rainbow perfect shoot making the net sing. In the 9th grade he played for the high school team. His college team did not get the exposure for his talents and by the time he was drafted by the Knicks drugs had taken there toll. I can only say he was a combination of Pistol Pete, Earl the Pearl and Dr. J. He even had the tongue wagging and blind free throws down pat before Mike.

  3. Every game will be overflowing with anxiety. Anand has to refute that he’s past his best years, while Magnus has to prove to the chess world that the time has come for a change of guard. Which is a heavier burden to overcome? The answer may have a lot to do with who will triumph in this match.

    1. I believe Anand will simply have to play at his best. All the talk about him not winning anymore are overblown. I suppose people said the same thing about Kobe Bryant and players who played past their prime. When Jordan came out of retirement to play for the Wizards (an abomination), he got smarter since he could no longer dunk on everybody. He started using subtle tricks. Anand will probably use his vast experience as an edge.

  4. I agree Daaim, in the anxiety and experience area, Anand has a huge advantage. Magnus will have to take him into unfamiliar territory and hope that he steps on a few traps along the way. Otherwise, an early loss or two could quickly disrupt Carlsen’s state of mind and throw him into a bad jam.

  5. Let us not forget that Carlsen has youth on his side. If he loses the first game it should only motivate him. After all he does think he is the best player in the world. I do wonder how much Carlsen’s lack of maturity (girlfriend(s), personal relationships, independence, etc.) may affect him. If Anand loses the first game, he may take it a little harder and may not be able to fight back since he has been on top so long and as they say, “you can’t beat father time”. One thing is sure this will be a classic.

    1. Nah… Anand has played in so many of these. I remember he fell behind Gelfand after a loss and came back the next game and won. He is a tough cookie. Carlsen is unproven in this format and has not been put under much pressure.

      1. I do think Carlsen will mature greatly since the pressure is on him to prove what he thinks, “he is the best in the world”.
        Let the games begin!!

  6. I am not too confident that we can label any chess player as THE BEST in the world. I think, it is adequate to tag a great player as ONE OF THE BEST. It’s just too difficult to measure the countless talent that are there and grade one as THE BEST ABOVE all.

  7. I agree with you , Guy. When Philidor, Lasker and Alekhine and many others of the past were in their prime there were no computers and they took the game to new heights. Can you imagine what they would have been like if they had Rybka and Houdini back in those days ?

  8. “I’m definitely the first number one in the world since Fischer, and probably at last since Kasparov, who probably has the most potential to dominate for the foreseeable future.” ~Magnus Carlsen –
    That my friends takes strong guts or a serious lack of maturity! Now he has to prove it!! We will see.

  9. Cleveland, It is an incredible assertion of self-confidence. In any case, if it turns out that it’s a very close match, many fans will probably give that quote a second thought. On the other hand, if he trounces Anand, he will have convinced many fans that he may have made a legitimate declaration.

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