As a child, Michael had a very close relationship with his father, this streaming mostly from their mutual love for sports. Baseball was their sport of choice and they bonded greatly over such games. Michael, however, chose to play basketball to follow in the footsteps of his older brother, Larry, whom he looked up to.
People who saw Michael grow up claim that he was competitive in almost everything. He liked winning and was, in fact, a sore loser. Consequently, he took it hard when he did not make it to his high school’s varsity team.
In his sophomore year at Emsley A. Laney High School, Michael tried out for an open position in the basketball varsity team. He hadn’t grown to his full height yet, nor did he have the skill he clearly showed the world in the years to come. He was not chosen for the position. Instead, the team opted for someone taller and bigger and—he believed—a less competent player than he was.
This started Michael’s drive to excel in the sport he wanted to be associated with. Rejected from the basketball team, he was determined to make it through at the next try-outs, and practice was his plan of action.
Michael went to school early every day, arriving before everybody else did. He spent the morning practicing shooting hoops in the gym. He was unstoppable in his desire to be the best in basketball, so much so that the physical education teachers had to drag him out of the gym when the first period bell rang.
When another spot opened for the basketball varsity team, Michael again tried his luck and was accepted as a team member. He was disappointed, however, as he was barely allowed to play in the interschool games. He was mostly on the bench, handing out water and towels to the tired players.