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Heath Brown Headshot

Dear Mr. President: Be Like Mike

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Much hand-wringing and panic has occurred in reaction to the performance of the president in the first presidential debate versus Romney. The president looked frustrated, lethargic, and maybe even distracted by his wedding anniversary. Most agree that Romney won the debate, and some concluded that the election is all but lost for the president. We must all remember that the president can still look for inspiration to Abraham Lincoln in 1864, Bill Clinton in 1996, and Michael Jordan in game five of the 1997 playoffs.

Remember back to spring, 1997. Michael Jordan, 34 at the time, four-time NBA champion and NBA MVP, was no longer at the peak of his career. He had already retired once and Karl Malone, registered Republican, had just been elected by the media as the season's MVP.

In the playoffs, Chicago swept the Bullets in round one; then surrendered only a single game in each series against the Hawks and then the Heat. The Bulls looked like a lock for another NBA championship.

In the finals, Chicago took on the Jazz... yes of Utah. Chicago won games one and two; MJ scored 31 and 38, and was one assist shy of a triple double in Game 2.

Game 3, now in Salt Lake City, Jordan shoots 11/27 from the field, scores only 22 for the game and the Bulls lose by 11. The next game Jordan struggles again, scores just 26, collects only four assists and four rebounds, and his last second three-pointer rims out. The Bulls lose again, and many begin to bemoan the passing of NBA's best to Malone and the Jazz.

The series now tied, 2 to 2, had Game 5 scheduled for June 11, again in Utah.

The president awaits the second debate on Tuesday in a similar situation to his Chicago Bull hero. Taking on his own Utah rival, the president and his campaign team must figure out how to build off the energy of his running mate's performance last week, but remain true to his own style. The president can't play like Scottie Pippen; he has to channel Michael.

So on June 11, 1997, Jordan, ridden with the flu, struggles through the start of the game, and Utah is up 5 at the end of the first quarter. Jordan soon surges through his illness and ultimately goes for 38 (7 rebounds, 5 assists), including 15 in the fourth quarter alone. Jordan follows up back in Chicago with 39 points, 11 rebounds and 4 assists. The Bulls win the series and their fifth NBA championship.

The president has channeled basketball icons before -- he boasted "I'm Lebron James, baby... I got some game." before his 2004 DNC Convention speech -- and is a fan of sports analogies. In order to win on Tuesday, he may again need to "Be Like Mike."