James M. Berklan

Why would anyone who lives in the Chicago area ever need 700 more pages of Michael Jordan, I thought when I saw the gift. We all soaked up his inimitable wonder — and ungracious blemishes — for years.

One can witness any edited moment of his glory days with the help of YouTube.

Quickly into author Roland Lazenby’s “Michael Jordan The Life,” a long-term care connection is quite apparent. You don’t have to be the biggest to be the best. Anecdote after anecdote, basketball insiders and normal people remind us that it was Jordan’s will to succeed and his intense competitiveness that propelled him beyond mere all-star status.

His height and weight were not remarkable. But Jordan’s determination to be the best was simply unmatched. One favorite vignette tells how then-Bulls Coach Kevin Loughery would split the squad into two teams at the end of practices to scrimmage to 10 points, changing the teams’ make-up daily. The loser would have to run 10 laps. Jordan — no matter whom he was teamed with — never had to run the 10 laps that season.

One time, in fact, his team led 8-0 when Loughery made him switch squads. The ticked-off Jordan went on to score the first nine points for his new team, which eventually won, of course. That doesn’t come from being the biggest. 

Over the past six months, long-term care observers have seen several prominent instances of “bigger isn’t necessarily better” blow up. There was Rick Matros’ very public roasting of the huge Genesis chain his healthcare REIT was intent on selling off. Then there’s been Brookdale’s rocky and uninspiring efforts to build a national senior care brand that led to pink slips for the top execs earlier this year.

More recently, there was HCR ManorCare’s filing for bankruptcy and agreeing to be acquired by its landlord after having missed rent payments worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Successful large operators, of course, will argue that size is not an automatic disqualifier. Nor should it be.

No matter what your size is, you had better still be competing, adding new facets to your game and striving to be more than merely competitive. Being big can be a nice bonus. But it isn’t an answer unto itself. Just ask the numerous 7-footers Michael Jordan and his wagging tongue dunked on during his playing days.