This is the second commentary in a series of articles analyzing ESPN's 10-part documentary, The Last Dance, a detailed look at the career of one of the greatest basketball players of all time, Michael Jordan, and the Chicago Bulls.
There was an amateur poet who also happened to be a professional boxer, turned Broadway star who once said, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth…”
The question then becomes, “How would you respond?”
"I want to become an athlete of influence!"
Like Mike Tyson did in the boxing ring, the Bulls of the 90s left a lot of mouths bloodied during their run to (SPOILER)… six NBA titles.
But the nearly 6 million viewers who tuned in to The Last Dance on Sunday night also found out that there’s a plan people make to get to a destination, and then there’s the reality that takes place on the way there. Sometimes that reality involves a few punches.
The Bulls absorbed more than a few shots in the pursuit of that first championship — literally and figuratively. Some of those came at the hands… and elbows, knees and feet… of the Detroit Pistons. For years it was a fight the Bulls simply could not win.
But along the way, it became clear that not only would the Bulls need a different strategy to beat them, they would need each other more than they previously realized.
God ordained us to need each other. In Genesis 2:18 “… The Lord said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make a helper for him.’”
Imagine that! Adam was created and had a perfect, thriving relationship with God, but God STILL said he needed a helper.
But why? Adam seemed to be thriving on his own. In Genesis 2:15, it says, “The Lord took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and keep it.”
Then the Lord had Adam name just about every living thing. “The man gave names to all livestock and all the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field” (Genesis 2:20).
But the second part of verse 20 says, “But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him.” And that’s when God created Eve.
On his own, Adam was capable of doing many things – but he still needed someone else to help him be a complete reflection of God, the Father.
God has always existed in community – with Jesus, the Son and the Holy Spirit. It’s called the trinity. Since humans are the only creation of God made in His own image, it only makes sense that we would be created to live in community.
On his own, Michael Jordan won scoring titles. He was Defensive Player of the Year, MVP and the slam dunk champion. Larry Bird once summed up his play after a playoff game with the comment: “I think he’s God disguised as Michael Jordan.”
But he couldn’t fully become who he was as a basketball player without the full support of others.
Scottie Pippen was one of the greatest players of all time. He might have been the best defender in the league during the Bulls’ championship run, and he thrived in the triangle offense. But by himself, he only got so far.
I love what Jordan said about his growing relationship with Pippen during those battles against Detroit: “The thing about (Pippen) is if you stand next to him, you make him stronger. All those Detroit times when Rodman wanted to pick on him, he needed someone there to say, ‘I’ll fight with you; just fight.’ Scottie and I bonded because he felt like, ‘Ok, he has someone that he can count on,’ and I’m like, ‘Ok, I have someone I can count on.’ Then Horace came right behind that.”
“I’ll fight with you; just fight!” Imagine what it must have felt like to have the greatest basketball player in the world back you like that!
So who are the people in your life who help you fight? Who’s present in your life telling you, “I’ll fight with you; just fight”?
Even the author of Ecclesiastes, a great king and a teacher of true wisdom who sought to find the meaning of life, claims that “Two are better than one because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow” (Ecclesiastes 4:9,10).
And when it comes to fighting, verse 12 says, “A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.”
We don’t need to face the Detroit Pistons to reinforce our God-given need for each other. It might help – but ultimately this is something we were made for. Sure, we can do a lot on our own, but we aren’t a complete reflection of who God is without others willing to fight alongside us.
And even when we find those who will fight alongside us, we still need that third strand. Some battles need to be fought for us.
Jesus was the one who came to fight for us so that our sins could be forgiven. That’s one battle none of us could have emerged victorious from on our own. He gives us the chance to experience ultimate victory – a relationship with God that lasts forever and surpasses all trophies, medals and championship rings.