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A Little Happier: Michael Jordan Had a “Love of the Game” Clause.


NOTE: These episodes were recorded before the COVID-19 situation took hold. Given the rapidly changing situation, it’s jarring to hear us ignore it—and that’s why.

The other day, I was talking to some friends, about something that had happened to the son of another friend of ours.

Her son was a good tennis player, and they’d hoped that his tennis ability would help him during the college application process.

Then, in the summer between junior and senior years of high school, during a casual basketball game with his friends, he injured his leg. That injury meant that he couldn’t play tennis for a long time, and that affected the college process.

“I would’ve been so angry!” one friend said. “It’s so irresponsible to take a risk at such a crucial time.”

Another friend has a son about the same age, who is a very serious ballet student who wants to join a professional company next year. She said, “My son wanted to go skiing with a friend, and I said, ‘Honey, this is your audition year. It isn’t the year for you to try skiing for the first time.’”

But another friend disagreed. “Really?” she said. “Can’t a kid play a game of basketball without worrying about his future? After all, Michael Jordan had his love-of-the-game clause.”

I was intrigued; I’d never heard about this “love-of-the-game clause.”

“What is that?” I asked. “Is that real?”

“Sure it’s real,” she said. And later I looked it up.

Sure enough, basketball superstar Michael Jordan had a clause in his contract that he was allowed to play basketball whenever he wanted to.

Jordan could play in exhibition games, scrimmages, or just a pickup game in a random park whenever he wanted—and reportedly, he was the only player ever to get that assurance. Teams don’t want their valuable players to take any unnecessary risks, but Jordan refused to let that stop him from playing basketball whenever he wanted.

I love this example of an outstanding athlete staying true to his love of the sport, and being so determined to play, that he made sure it was written into his contract.

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