From the Pilot’s Seat: Reflections on “The Last Dance”

Chicago Bulls Michael Jordan 1997 (Wikipedia)

By GianLuca Moscheni ‘22

As we enter into this new school year, we face both great excitement and great uncertainty. We have at our disposal a near-infinite number of opportunities at Chaminade in our classes, sports, clubs, and activities. Although amazing, this multitude of possibilities can also be daunting. 

I grew up as both an avid basketball fan and player. So, in my free time this summer, I decided to watch the 2020 Netflix documentary, The Last Dance. Born in 2004, I am too young to have witnessed Michael Jordan’s dominance, but I have seen his time-transcendent ability infiltrate basketball’s game and culture.

Jordan was known for his intangibles and his work ethic—traits that defined his competitive spirit and fierce persona in his ascent to the throne as the greatest basketball player of all time. In a myriad of ways, we are all called to be “like Mike.” 

Now, to the dismay of my fifth-grade self, I was not called to become an NBA pro. However, we can all apply Jordan’s intangibles to the pursuit of our own goals by gaining insight into his words and the valuable lessons we might glean from them: 

“I never looked at the consequences of missing a big shot.”

Do not be afraid to explore everything that Chaminade, and this world as a whole, has to offer. Yes, it is certainly intimidating to join a new club, attend Eucharistic Adoration before lunch, or try out for a sport you have never played before, but, because of this, these experiences promise to be the most exciting. If our lives are perfectly predictable, we will miss out on the surprises God has for us in the exploration of the unknown.

“Obstacles don’t have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don’t turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it.”

Do not let obstacles discourage you. Yes, school is challenging, activities and clubs are demanding, and sports are physically and mentally draining. But we cannot let that stop us. As Pope Benedict XVI said, “The world offers you comfort. But you were not made for comfort. You were made for greatness.” Jordan echoes this, stressing the importance of perseverance in the pursuit of our goals. We are not made to be comfortable and, at Chaminade, we most certainly are not. We are faced with obstacles—busy schedules, frequent tests and quizzes—and our character will be determined not by the obstacles we face, but by how we climb, go through, and work around them. In the words of Rocky Balboa, “It ain’t about how hard you hit, it’s about how you can get hit and keep moving forward.”

“I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

Do not be afraid to fail. When we inevitably run into any of those aforementioned walls, we gain perspective on life, develop character, and wholeheartedly learn and grow. Former IBM Chairman and CEO Thomas Watson Sr. believed that to succeed, you need to first fail, explaining, “You are thinking of failure as the enemy of success. But it isn’t at all. You can be discouraged by failure, or you can learn from it, so go ahead and make mistakes. Make all you can. Because remember, that’s where you will find success.” Try out for that sport you love that you have never played competitively before: if you do not make the team, you have lost nothing but a few hours, and you are primed for future success through the lessons you have learned from your current failure. Join that new club: maybe it is not for you, but you might make a new friend who will go on to be the best man at your wedding.

“I didn’t win without Scottie Pippen, and that’s why I consider him my best teammate of all time. He helped me so much in the way I approached the game, in the way I played the game. Whenever they speak Michael Jordan, they should speak Scottie Pippen.”

Do not think that you are in this alone. We are surrounded by friends and teachers who support us and encourage us in our endeavors. Jordan and Pippen certainly did not always agree or get along, but their common purpose of victory united them and inspired their collaboration. Similarly, though we differ from our classmates in many ways and may not always get along, we are all united in our bond through the Chaminade family and in our relationship with Christ. As Thomas Merton so beautifully explained, “When you see God in everyone, they see God in you.” Inspired by this, let us not neglect our responsibility to be there for our classmates, teammates, and friends; when we show up for them, we grow closer to God and 

are strengthened in our pursuits.

“I’ve always believed that if you put in the work, the results will come.”

Do not forget to find meaning in your work. Dedicate yourself to working in accord with your greater purpose, and you will succeed. In Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl repeatedly quotes Nietzche’s famous line: “He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.” Michael Jordan’s desire to become the greatest basketball player in the world allowed him to happily bear his injuries, struggles, and pain. Let us find what we love, and then put in the work needed to excel.

“Just play. Have fun. Enjoy the game.”

Do not forget to find joy in your challenges, work, and anxiety. For us seniors, this is our “last dance.” Before we know it we will be in Disney and, soon afterward, we will be graduating. From here until then, though, let us enjoy the ride—never becoming so preoccupied with our many commitments that we forget to enjoy and appreciate each moment at Chaminade.