Monday, January 7, 2008


Late one night, I was in the studio painting Michael Jordan's portrait when my agent Jack Krasula phoned me, to ask me what I was working on. When I replied I was studying sweat, the phone went silent. After a brief pause he politely hung up. "Leave it to an artist," I could hear him say, as he set down the receiver.

But it was true. At that moment, for some unexplained reason, the study of perspiration on Michael Jordan's forehead intrigued me. I noticed the multiple colors that made up each individual droplet. But, what I found most fascinating was the variety of different colors, and the sizes, assortment and spectrum I found within each droplet.

What makes Michael Jordan so successful? A passion succeed and the commitment necessary to run the race Odd, I must confess, but the minuteness of it all intrigued me.

I, like all great scientists, (pun intended) wanted the answer to what seemed to me, to be perhaps one of the most profound questions of our day:

How many colors describe this divine substance we call sweat? I had begun a strange journey that would ultimately lead me to my answer.

I found myself reaching for the television remote control and began flipping through the channels, when I paused in one of the most unlikely places. Somewhere between TV-Land and the Cartoon Network, my answer came. Who could forget the classic, memorable television commercial from the 1960's featuring a cartoon turtle asking Mr. Owl, "Mr. Owl, how many licks does it take to get to the Tootsie-Roll center of a Tootsie Pop?"

The ever-wise, omniscient Owl, in the process of licking the tootsie pop declared in a crackling voice, "One, two, three." And then came the resounding crunch of, "The world may never know!"

I had my answer. The answer was, the world may never know what it takes to create a drop of perspiration, but as America's Premier Sports Artist, I aimed to find out. It was the secret behind the mystery of what made Michael Jordan tick. The universe wanted me to understand-- it had nothing to do with the kind of sweat that gathers on the forehead of a super-star athlete; it was all about the kind of sweat that follows a passion to succeed and the commitment necessary to run the race. The kind of sweat that tells us we have earned the right to a successful life.

On more than one occasion Jack Krasula had confided to me that he chose Jordan as his number one athlete of all time because, to quote Jack, "Who else can defy the laws of gravity?"

As I set down my cup of pure Columbian-brewed coffee, I suddenly realized that when we demand more from ourselves, even gravity has to relent. The sweat on Michael Jordan's forehead was achieved by his single-minded dedication to excellence. No one could deny Michael Jordan graciously gave us every drop of sweat he had. But it was during my own pursuit for the answer to those miniscule droplets dangling on his forehead, that I had unwittingly stumbled across something else-- I realized what every drop of sweat could mean.

All of us know about Michael's leaping ability, but not everyone is aware that Michael Jordan exhibited super-powers of a sort throughout his career. At times, if Jordan decided to, he could suspend himself in mid-air, floating above the net. It's not that he jumped higher than anyone else. He just stayed up there longer. How was that possible? How can a man defy gravity? Apparently gravity had little effect on his desire for excellence and determination to reach a higher level. We can each reach this new level of achievement by drawing on the strength of our experience.

For the time being, the realm of flight might remain Jordan's, but sooner or later we can all get there. Where a high level of achievement is expected, a new level of excellence will be experienced. True to form, Michael is still hanging in the air as to whether or not he will come down and become a team owner.

Regardless of what he decides to do, gravity will be waiting.

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