The Mystery Man behind Michael Jordan’s Success

There’s always someone ready to lay claim to other people’s success. It’s a rarity when that claim actually has merit. When Michael Jordan was a sophmore, he was cut from the varsity basketball game. His friend, Leroy Smith, did make the team. From that point on, Jordan used Leroy Smith as a motivation—it was the driving force behind his storied competitiveness. Jordan used the name as a mantra to push himself in training and playing.

Smith and Jordan were actually friends, so there was no animosity between the two, nor did Jordan harbor any resentment for his friend. Instead, Smith became a reminder of what it felt like to be disappointed, something Jordan never wanted to feel again. And Jordan did not feel it again. He became one of the greatest stars in basketball history. Jordan pushed himself harder than anyone else on the court, and that drive paid off. Jordan led the NBA in scoring for seven straight years and ten in total, including scoring 63 points against the Celtics—the most points ever scored by a player in a post-season game. Of this motivation, Jordan said, “When he made the team and I didn’t, I wanted to prove not just to Leroy Smith, not just to myself, but to the coach who actually picked Leroy over me, I wanted to make sure he knew you made a mistake dude.”

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