If you ever find yourself in a small room with Michael Jordan and a young boy fighting leukemia, you’ll see true greatness at play. I had that chance recently and was amazed by the moment. It was MJ at his one-on-one best with a 12-year-old from California, Joseph Domingues Jr. Granted, the name isn’t as epic as the battles of Jordan vs. Bird or Jordan vs. Magic, but this battle of Jordan vs. Domingues featured a kid in a resilient battle against leukemia.
The day was arranged by the Make-A-Wish Foundation and was highlighted by 10 questions written, by hand, on a piece of paper that would challenge the NBA great. Surrounded by his parents and older sister, little Joseph Domingues grew confident as his basketball idol autographed a few jerseys and other MJ apparel. He shook hands with the man who won six NBA Championships, but when the conversation turned more personal Joseph did what most might: He started shaking. His left leg was bouncing up and down as he stuttered to answer Michael’s question and then MJ reached over, put his hand on Joseph’s leg and said, “It’s just us, pal. Nothing to be nervous about.” The boy’s leg went still then Jordan said “Don’t you have things you might want to ask?” “As a matter of fact,” Joseph said reaching for his backpack, “I did bring some questions!” He pulled a handwritten sheet from the backpack and started rattling them off. The nerves were suddenly gone. “What does it take to be the best?” was Joseph’s first question and MJ had the perfect answer. “You have to have a passion for something to be great at it,” His Airness said. “So try everything until you find that thing you’re passionate about. When you find it, you can be great at it.” So true. The questions continued with topics of his favorite teammate and who MJ would never want to play against. After acknowledging that Scottie Pippen was his favorite teammate, Jordan quickly swatted the latter question with, “Nobody. In basketball, I would want to play against everybody.” It’s that kind of mindset that made MJ a living legend.
Even in a heartwarming event like this, his competitive thirst to be the best is never far removed. The questions continued about the 1988 Slam Dunk Contest, and even MJ’s acting role in the movie Space Jam. But after the written questions were exhausted, there was still time for one more. Joseph’s last question for Michael was about the “flu game” from the 1997 NBA Finals against the Utah Jazz and what drove Michael to continue playing even though he was ill. MJ explained how important it is to push through obstacles even if you don’t feel up to the challenge.
The lesson here is about persistence and resilience. Little Joseph Domingues waited a year and a half to meet Michael. The Make-A-Wish Foundation asked several times would he want to meet other, more readily available stars instead, but he refused. Little Joseph only wanted to go one-on-one with his dream player. Here’s to hoping his fight with cancer has just as great an outcome! Have you had a moment, in life or in business, where your persistence paid off? Have you stayed true to a goal of yours despite many opportunities to curb that goal for a faster reward?