Lessons lost amid hype - Taipei Times
Sun, May 23, 2004 - Page 24 News List

Lessons lost amid hype


Michael Jordan during a news conference in Taipei, Friday. Jordan said his college coach was his greatest influence.


Screaming fans swarmed the Grand Formosa Regent Taipei yesterday after a week of anticipation that began when Michael Jordan's private jet landed in Beijing late last week with security measures rivaling those of a state president.

Members of the local media met Jordan for the first time yesterday afternoon, and the usual friendly and courteous remarks that have made Jordan a media darling for 20 years were exchanged.

But what MJ said when asked about the most influential person in his basketball career left a deep impression on the minds of the true basketball fans and those who have witnessed him blossomed from a high-school phenomenon into a sports immortal.

Without any hesitation, Jordan replied, "Dean Smith."

Though a household name in the US, most local "hoops fanatics" who believe the NBA to be the be-all and end-all of basketball were totally unfamiliar with coach Smith.

A mentor, coach, father figure and friend to Jordan since his playing days at the University of North Carolina, Smith was a coaching legend in the NCAA long before anyone had ever heard of "His Airness."

"He [Smith] really taught me the essence of the game and was a great inspiration to me," Jordan said.

Smith and Jordan remained close long after he left college a year early to enter into the NBA in 1984.

At a time when budding superstars are choosing to completely skip the college experience, Jordan came back to it, returning to Chapel Hill to finish his degree while frequently visiting with his old mentor, coach Smith.

As fans and many members of the local press continue to look at Jordan with star-crossed eyes, most have completely missed the core values and experiences that make up the essence of the man.

That's a lesson worth teaching youngsters next time they want to spend their parents' hard-earned money on a pair of costly basketball shoes.

Jordan has donated over US$5 million within the past five years to support programs, mostly for inner city children, that teach traditional values and a sound work ethic.

So for those who truly want to follow in the footsteps of a man who Taiwanese call "the god of basketball," it will take a little more effort than simply buying an expensive T-shirt with a Jordan logo on it.

Unfortunately, few here are likely to get that message.

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