[ 4 minutes to read ]“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” Wayne Gretzky quoting his father Walter Gretzky Is Michael Jordan the greatest basketball player of all time? Is he better than The King James? Debates on that question are endless. If you look at the career numbers, the two are very close, with a slight edge to LeBron. Of course, one big difference is that James has played in almost 300 more games than Jordan did, but their per game averages are very close. A team owner would be glad to have either one on their team, but I don’t see how anyone would pick peak LeBron over peak Jordan. Allow me to opine.
Jordan’s professional record has been perfectly preserved as the only player to have two three-peat championships, along with several other still-standing records. It’s impossible to think Jordan could be improved upon. He was tried seven times in the playoffs (1985-1991) before he won his first championship on his seventh consecutive trip to the postseason. He went on to win the next two championships making three in a row before retiring for a little while and then coming back and winning three more championships in a row.
You may wonder how his old school game would translate into to today’s modern game. LeBron plays in today’s game, so there’s no reason to think Jordan wouldn’t. Players today understand Jordan. In fact, everyone playing today is trying to be Jordan. The eye test of watching both play clearly shows Jordan played with double the inspiration of James. The bottom line is that Jordan was good enough for grandpa and he’s good enough for me. I conclude Jordan is better than The King James, but I’m not mad about it.
The Shots You Take
Over the course of his professional career, Jordan missed 11,148 two-point shots, 1,197 three-point shots, and 1,445 free throws. He missed 13,790 total shots in his 15 seasons. I know we usually talk about shots made, but that’s a large number of shots missed. I’m sure he intended to make everyone of the shots he took. If I am permitted the liberty of adapting Walter Gretzky’s wisdom, You intend to make 100% of the shots you take. But, you don’t make them all.
When it comes to winning and losing a game, intentions don’t count. You either made the shot or missed the shot. No matter how much Jordan wanted in his heart to make those shots, or how often he dreamed and envisioned the ball going through the hoop, he missed 13,790 times. No matter how hard he tried to make them, nor how much he thought they would go in, he still missed half the shots he took. His career field goal percentage was 49.7%, though it was better from the foul line at 83.5%. Obviously, no one would be upset with those career numbers, nor with the career results of Michael Jordan. However, he still missed a lot of shots.
The point is that a miss is a miss, no matter the intentions to make it. This principle is objective and applies to fields beyond basketball or hockey. If a comedian tells a joke and no one gets it, or only one guy laughs, that’s a miss. He intended to be funny, but he failed to communicate the humor. He took a shot and missed. On the other hand, if he tells a joke and everybody in the room laughs except that one guy, that’s a make. A comedian gets up to do a set and each bit doesn’t get a room full of laughs, but if most of the people laughed most of the time, he made enough shots to be successful.
Nobody Shoots 100%
No one makes every shot they take. 50% may be a great career field goal percentage, but it would be a terrible pulpit percentage. Preachers are taking shots every time they preach. The preacher’s job is to explain the written word of God in its original contextual meaning and accurately apply it to the hearers today. Every time a preacher fails to preach a text, he misses. No matter how much a preacher intends to preach the Bible, if he doesn’t actually preach the Bible in an understandable way, he misses.
The gift for preaching refers primarily to the ability to communicate clearly. The pastor must “be able” to “exhort and convince” (Titus 1:9). He must “be able to teach” (2 Timothy 2:2). He “must be … apt to teach” (1 Timothy 3:2; 2 Timothy 2:24). That doesn’t mean that every misunderstanding is a miss on the preacher’s part. Paul defended his ministry as being honest, open, and clearly communicating the gospel of Christ, but acknowledged that the truth was hidden from some because their minds were blinded, not because he failed to communicate (2 Corinthians 4:1-6).
If a preacher frequently leaves people questioning what he meant, he is missing a lot of shots. He may have intended to preach the Bible, but he missed. The preacher’s job is to communicate clearly. That’s what he’s up front to do. If a preacher leaves the pulpit failing to have explained the Bible so the people just have to take his word for it, he missed. If a preacher preaches “the truth,” but fails to preach the text or clearly show “the truth” from Scripture, he missed.
No preacher hits 100% of his shots, but that should be the goal. The preacher should aim for clarity every time he opens the Bible to preach it. If he’s not aiming for that, what is he aiming for? The alarming truth is that not every preacher is aiming for biblical clarity in the pulpit. Many are aiming for something else, and that is probably worth a separate post.
Regardless of which version of the James vs. Jordan debate you prefer, can we agree that it doesn’t matter all that much? People talk a lot about goats today, but, of course, goats refer to something else in church speak. Is Jordan better than The King James? I don’t know and it doesn’t really matter, but when a preacher shoots 50% or less for his career, everyone loses.