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I want to share a basketball story with you tonight. It is about Michael Jordan, perhaps the greatest professional basketball player of all time. One night he scored sixty-nine points in a single game. In that same game, rookie Stacey King made his inauspicious debut. He shot one free throw and made it. After the final buzzer, a reporter asked King for his thoughts on the game. Stacey King, with tongue planted firmly in his cheek, replied: “I’ll always remember this as the night that Michael Jordan and I combined for 70 points.”
Well, I guess that is one way to look at it. Michael Jordan was a great basketball player. And yet John Eliot, in his book titled Overachievement, claims that Michael Jordan was not really a very gifted basketball player. For example, Jordan ranked ninth in the NBA for field goals made and eighteenth in total points. He never ranked first in any major NBA statistic. Even in his prime, Jordan was not the fastest or most accurate shooter; he certainly was not a rebounder or brilliant at defense.
Yet Jordan is considered the greatest player of his era, and maybe the best ever. How did a poor defender and average shooter get to be a five time NBA MVP not to mention earn the reputation as the best hoops player on the planet? Passion? Confidence? Determination? All of these were involved, of course. Michael Jordan, who famously was cut from his middle school team, simply set out to be the best he could be and the rest is history.
There is a part of almost everyone that is thrilled when someone attempts to reach lofty goals. The pioneer, the successful entrepreneur, the victorious athlete all speak to us about the ability of the human spirit to achieve monumental accomplishments when properly motivated. Vicariously, we share in their achievements and find hope for our own lives in their successes.
President John F. Kennedy’s hero was his grandfather, and he loved to hear stories about his grandfather’s boyhood in Ireland. One of these stories concerned how Grandfather Fitzgerald used to walk home from school each day with a group of friends. Sometimes these boys would challenge each other to climb over the stone walls along the lanes of the countryside.
However, there were times when young Fitzgerald and the other boys were sometimes hesitant to dare the hazardous climbs. So, they devised a way to motivate themselves to take the risk involved: they would toss their caps over the wall. You see, they knew that they dare not go home without their caps, so then they had to climb over the walls to get them. They tossed their caps over the wall as a way of motivating themselves to take a risk. The poet said, “A man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for?” And it is true.
There are times when all of us long to toss our caps over the wall. There are times when we hunger in our own way for the heroic whether we want to change jobs, start our own business, go back to school, or whatever. There come those times in life when we feel the need to make a change. Perhaps it is time to throw your hat over the wall on some issue? Got any ideas?
Grace and Peace