What Michael Jordan & Patrick Ewing Can Teach Us About Rejection

In the 1982 NCAA men’s basketball championship game, Georgetown center Patrick Ewing was given a very strict instruction…any shot that was taken near the rim, block it out of the building.

So that was exactly what Ewing did.

In the opening minutes of the game, the Hoyas center goaltended five Tar Heel shots. He swatted shot after shot, trying to send each one crashing into the rafters.

Observers of the game thought that maybe the freshmen was just nervous. But with one goaltend after another, it became obvious that nerves had nothing to do with it.

Ewing was doing it on purpose.

Before the game, Georgetown head coach John Thompson Ewing, “everything that comes to the rim, take it back, take it back.”

He was instructing his freshmen center to reject every single North Carolina shot. Even if it meant doing something illegal that would result in 2 free points for the opposing Tar Heels.

In basketball, a shot that is blocked at the rim during its downward motion is called goaltending. This results in points for the offense, regardless of whether the shot would have gone in or how far the defense blocks the ball.

So why did Thompson tell Ewing to block every single shot to start the game? Was he not aware of the goaltending rule?

Of course he knew the rule. But he chose to ignore it for one important reason.

He wanted to send a message to North Carolina.

Thompson later said that “kids don’t remember goaltending calls. They remember getting their shot blocked.”

He wanted Ewing to seem so imposing, so much larger than life, that he was willing to sacrifice a few points on the scoreboard to gain a few points in the mental game.

What may seem like an odd strategy actually makes a lot of sense.

As a basketball player, there are few things worse than having your shot blocked. You are quite literally getting rejected.

Outside of basketball rejection also sucks.

Thompson is right. We don’t always remember the circumstance surrounding the rejection. We just remember getting blocked.

That emotional, physical or mental block can take its toll on us.

It is how we respond to that rejection that determines the outcome.

Luckily for North Carolina, they were able to overcome the constant rejection. Despite Ewing’s imposing presence, they kept shooting.

Good thing they did.

Thanks to a game winning shot by a freshman guard you might have heard of named Michael Jordan, the Tar Heel went on to defeat Thompson and the Hoyas, 63-62.

You are going to constantly get rejected in life. Will you keep shooing?


(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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