Michael Jordan might’ve been the superior NBA player, but for the Utah Jazz, John Stockton and Karl Malone were hands down the better team leaders.
Utah Jazz peeps, are you at all familiar with the term “false dichotomy,” by chance?
If not, in simple terms, a false dichotomy is when two opposing options are presented as the only possible outcomes: one or the other must be chosen — they simply don’t go together. The reality of the situation, however? With a false dichotomy, both options can coexist in perfect harmony.
For example, a troubled, elementary-aged boy might think that openly disobeying his teacher is the only way for him to earn the attention of his peers. In his mind, there are but two options:
- Option #1 – Obey the teacher and go unnoticed by his classmates.
- Option #2 – Disobey the teacher and earn their undivided attention.
As we rightfully know, though, the best of both worlds is completely possible: in truth, the young man can obey his teacher’s rules, while also earning the attention of the other kids in his class.
Vocabulary lesson aside, what does any of this have to do with Michael Jordan, John Stockton, Karl Malone or the concluding episodes of “The Last Dance” this past weekend? Chalk it up to anger, jealousy or bitterness as a Utah Jazz fan (and writer), but of this much I’m dead certain …
Jordan was an all-time NBA winner; he wasn’t an all-time NBA leader.
Episode after episode, my problem with Jordan and “The Last Dance” remained constant: when all of this is over, I knew Mike would be celebrated for his win-at-all-costs style of leadership.
Case in point:
In sports, at school or down at the office — in the name of crossing the finish line first, now more than ever before, young and old, people are really going to think this kind of behavior is acceptable.
Seriously, think for a second about what you’ve spent the last five Sunday nights witnessing: His Airness punching Steve Kerr in the face, lying about other players to fabricate motivation and tearing down a man with obvious self-worth issues in Jerry Krause for not following his lead.
Oh! And my personal favorite, in the final episode, 20-plus years after the fact, taking shots at Jerry Reinsdorf for not bringing back the 1998 Bulls on a bunch of crappy, one-year contracts to go for a seventh championship — this coming from the guy who bailed on a fourth-consecutive NBA title to ride around the country in a Greyhound bus while playing minor league baseball …
Give me a freaking break, dude.
Okay, let’s bring this dilemma of leadership ethics full circle using our new, previously-defined concept: false dichotomy. You’re the leader out on the court in this scenario; you make the call:
- Option #1 – Lead people respectfully and consistently lose.
- Option #2 – Belittle or tear down others and come out on top.
Crazy, but in this situation, as your team’s franchise player, you can have your cake and eat it, too: the correct answer is a combination of both options — lead from the front with kindness, respect and the occasional reprimand, while also winning a boatload of basketball games.
With the Chicago Bulls, Jordan won six NBA championships in only eight years. Stockton and Malone? Yeah, they didn’t even land one — and now literally everyone on the planet knows it.
But in spite of Karl’s troubling past decisions and Stockton’s reputation for being a dirty player, for better or worse, the pair knew how to lead a team — not bully one into submission.
Michael Jordan’s the greatest winner the NBA has ever known. Still, even after coming down from my high horse, my feelings about him as a leader remain the same: he never was much of one.