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Michael Jordan is widely considered to be the best basketball player of all time, and is arguably one of the best athletes in history.
He dominated the court from the mid-1980s until the late 1990s, leading the Chicago Bulls to six NBA championships and winning the title of “Most Valuable Player” five times. In 2009, he was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. And in 2016, he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama.
While it’s obvious that Jordan is a naturally gifted athlete, much of what has made him so successful is his mindset. He pushed himself through hard work and always met challenges head-on. He has given his all in everything he has ever done. With his acrobatic dives and dunks, he had nearly unmatchable skills, but his authenticity, likeability and humility were the traits that made him a cultural icon.
Jordan has a remarkable ability to inspire and motivate through his words. His strength, dedication and belief in working hard are reflected in many of the quotes attributed to him over the years. Here are the 12 of his most motivational quotes to make you really think about what it takes to be successful and keep you moving toward your goals and dreams.
“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.” — Michael Jordan, Nike Culture: The Sign of the Swoosh (1998) by Robert Goldman and Stephen Papson
“I can accept failure, everyone fails at something. But I can’t accept not trying.” — Michael Jordan, I Can’t Accept Not Trying: Michael Jordan on the Pursuit of Excellence (1994) by Michael Jordan, Mark Vancil and Sandro Miller
“Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence wins championships.” — Michael Jordan, I Can’t Accept Not Trying: Michael Jordan on the Pursuit of Excellence (1994) by Michael Jordan, Mark Vancil and Sandro Miller
On overcoming limits and fears:
“Never say never. Because limits, like fears, are often just an illusion.” — Michael Jordan, Hall of Fame induction address (2009)
On becoming who you’re meant to be:
“Look me in the eye. It’s okay if you’re scared. So am I. But we are scared for different reasons. I am scared of what I won’t become. And you are scared of what I could become. Look at me. I won’t let myself end where I started. I won’t let myself finish where I began. I know what is within me, even if you can’t see it yet. Look me in the eyes. I have something more important than courage. I have patience. I will become what I know I am.” — Michael Jordan, “Become Legendary“ commercial (2013)
On the importance of core skills:
“You can practice shooting 8 hours a day, but if your technique is wrong, then all you become is very good at shooting the wrong way. Get the fundamentals down and the level of everything you do will rise.” — Michael Jordan, The Champion’s Comeback: How Great Athletes Recover, Reflect and Reignite (2016) by Jim Afremow
On never giving up:
“Some people want it to happen, some wish it would happen, others make it happen.” — Michael Jordan
“My father used to say that it’s never too late to do anything you wanted to do. And he said you never know what you can accomplish until you try.” — Michael Jordan, “A Humbled Jordan Learns New Truths” (1994) The New York Times
On setting goals:
“You must expect great things of yourself before you can do them.” — Michael Jordan
“I approach everything step by step … I had always set short-term goals. As I look back, each one of the steps or successes led to the next one.” — Michael Jordan, I Can’t Accept Not Trying: Michael Jordan on the Pursuit of Excellence (1994) by Michael Jordan, Mark Vancil and Sandro Miller
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On playing to win:
“I play to win, whether during practice or a real game. And I will not let anything get in the way of me and my competitive enthusiasm to win.” — Michael Jordan, Michael Jordan’s Unofficial Guide to Success in the NBA (2013) The Bleacher Report
On creating change in the world:
“The problems we face didn’t happen overnight and they won’t be solved tomorrow, but if we all work together, we can foster greater understanding, positive change and create a more peaceful world for ourselves, our children, our families and our communities.” — Michael Jordan (2016) The Undefeated