With apologies to the marketing team at Gatorade, cue the music and the choir.
Now hit it."Sometimes I dream, that he is me. You've got to know that's what I dream to be. Bomba-do-do. If I, if I could be like . . . Phil?"
Madison Avenue advertising executives will likely never grasp the concept, but a man whose estimated worth to the global economy exceeds $10 bil-lion already has.
His name? Michael Jordan.
"I just decided to use a little bit of (coach Phil Jackson's) Zen Buddhism and relax. Instead of being frustrated, just smile and let it flow. Channel my thoughts, my frustration in a whole different form," Jordan said as the Chicago Bulls looked ahead to Game 3 of the NBA Finals Sunday at the United Center. "I feel confident. And I kind of forced myself to say, `Hey, I'm going to enjoy this moment. It may not happen again.' "
Jordan, whose Bulls are three wins away from a third consecutive and sixth overall NBA championship, has threatened to retire at season's end. Bulls management has grown tired of Jackson's schtick, but Jordan hasn't. Thus, the NBA's all-time leading playoff scorer has said he'll return only if his coach, the Zen master if you will, is back on the bench. Bulls general manager Jerry Krause has said it won't happen.
"This may be the last time, last dance, whatever," Jordan said of the situation. "Maybe I'm taking it too serious. I should enjoy it. And that's my mood from now on."
Before and after Chicago's 93-88 win in Game 2, Jordan was flashing his billion dollar smile. It wasn't too long ago, in the Eastern Conference Finals to be exact, that he wore the face of weariness and frustration.
The new Michael Jordan, however, still plays like the old one. And that's bad news for the Jazz. His Airness is perfect in five previous trips to the NBA Finals. On Friday, the NBA's all-time playoff scoring leader netted 37 points to extend his championship series record of consecutive games with 20 or more points to 31.
"I've been confident all along. I may have been laughing and joking and changing my mood, but that hasn't diminished my confidence," Jordan said. "I think a lot of people have said things about our physical tiredness or whatever, but our mental toughness is there."
Strong enough, he said, to defend what is theirs.
And what the Bulls have, obviously, is quite special. Even if the off-court distractions from Jackson, Krause, Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman have produced a soap opera atmosphere, Chicago remains the league's marquee team.
"And I tune in with the rest of the world," admitted NBA commissioner David Stern. "As the World Turns: Bulls style."
Though it remains to be seen, the final episode could come as early as next Friday. With the future of Jordan and Jackson in doubt; and Pippen vowing to use his impending free agency to seek employment elsewhere; the final running of these Bulls is in all likelihood making its way through Chicago for the last time. The next three games of the NBA Finals will be played here. Games 6 and 7, if necessary, will take place in Utah.
Wherever they may be, Jordan will be there. He hasn't missed a game since returning from a year-and-a-half retirement in 1995.
"I feel good. I have played every game and that's been a motivation thing for me," Jordan said. "To make sure I step in there, be a leader, and be there for the team whenever it's necessary."
Just ask the Utah Jazz about that one.
Jordan is well on his way to a sixth NBA Finals MVP award should Chicago go on to defeat Utah in the series. He is averaging 35 points over the first two games.
That was in Salt Lake City, however. Jordan's encore performances will take place in Chicago. The Bulls didn't practice or answer media questions Saturday, but a sign on a Chicago ticket brokerage asked the only thing the locals want to know: Is this Jordan's last series? No definitive word from His Airness, just yet.
He's too busy playing basketball and smiling.
In other words, Mike is being like Mike - again.