Growing up, Michael Jordan was my favorite basketball player. I admired him because of his determination and drive to be the greatest in the world. I remember watching his last game for the Chicago Bulls, game six in the NBA Finals against the Utah Jazz. The Bulls were down by one point with seconds left in the contest. Jordan had the ball at the three-point line and drove against his defender Byron Russell. He then stopped his attack right above the free-throw line, pulled the ball back,and lost his defender who had slipped from the unexpected move. Jordan then rose up and shot the ball with the clock winding down. This shot was the biggest of his career, and he had made it.
Sitting in my living room I felt the adrenaline from the television and chills went through my body as if I were playing. I envisioned myself doing the same when my team needed a big shot. I knew then that I wanted to be a professional athlete and was inspired by Jordan’s confidence and his willpower to win. I wanted to be “just like Mike” and would imitate his on-the-court mannerisms by sticking my tongue out when I would play basketball.
At the time I did not know that success in basketball was 90% mental and 10% physical. As I got older, I learned life was the same way; you had to be mentally tough to succeed. I was very confident on the basketball court, but it was a different story when it came to the classroom. When I was on the court I felt safe, secure and confident. When I was in the classroom I realized I lacked mental toughness. I was extremely self-conscious when everyone would look at me while I was making a presentation. I hated going in front of the class to read out loud. My hands would become wet and slippery, and I would sweat furiously all over my body. I was six foot four and weighed 250 pounds, and although I was physically bigger then everyone in the classroom, I did not believe in myself enough to make a confident presentation for my classmates.
The Poetry Recitation was a big part of my junior year at Lawrence Academy. Our English teacher Ms. Sadler told us we would each need to pick out a poem and recite it in front of the class. I was horrified at the idea! I did not feel comfortable talking in front of everyone, but I knew I needed to get over my fear sooner rather than later. I thought of Michael Jordan and how he would never back down from a challenge. I decided to pick the longest poem in the class, which was “The Last Wolf” by Mary Tallmountain. The poem was twenty-eight lines long. I would practice reciting the poem out loud in front of the mirror in my dorm for two weeks. When the day came to make the presentation in front of everyone, I was nervous but determined. I got up there and nailed my recitation, speaking with emotion. As I read the poem I started to feel myself become more comfortable reciting it. I felt like Jordan when he hit the game winning shot. I realized that believing really was achieving.
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