The thing about greatness is you know it when you see it.
In 1992 I watched the Utah Jazz beat the Chicago Bulls in triple overtime at the Delta Center in Salt Lake City. Michael Jordan had an off night. But he still scored 34 points and pulled down 13 rebounds before getting kicked out of the game for arguing a call during the second overtime.
For nearly four hours, I couldn’t take my eyes off him. I watched his every move. The way he stretched before the game. How he interacted with his teammates, yet stared down the younger Jazz players. Even the way he runs the court is different.
Over 19,000 people filled the sold-out arena, and most of them were Jazz fans. But the thousands of camera flashes I saw that night were no doubt aimed at number 23. Outside of the playoffs, he’d be in Salt Lake only once a year.
I, like most everyone in attendance that night, cheered for the Jazz. But I was in awe of Jordan. I knew I was watching the best basketball player on the planet. The game itself was secondary. Although I didn’t know it at the time, it would be the only time I’d see him in person.
The felt the same way when I watched Tracy Chapman sing Talkin About a Revolution at Benaroya Hall in Seattle. Gives me chills thinking back to that day nearly 12 years ago. Tracy took the stage wearing a black jacket and matching jeans. Even the guitar slung over her should was black.
I didn’t take my eyes off her for over two hours, because I knew I was watching and listening to greatness and I didn’t want to miss a single note.
As it was watching Jordan, I knew I’d probably never experience anything similar in person in my lifetime again, and I haven’t.
Although I’ve never seen Steve Jobs in person, I’ve watched him introduce dozens of new Apple products in a manner unlike anyone else.
I’d never owned a single Apple product until October of 2005 when the fifth general iPod was released. Because of Jobs, I had to have it. He described it as if it were a work of art. Something that should be behind glass, but instead fits in my pocket and holds my entire music library.
I worked at Microsoft in various positions for 10 years and listened to Bill Gates speak dozens of times. Yet, I never felt compelled to purchase anything he’s introduced because he said it was great. Gates always spoke to the OEM, partner or “information worker”. But Jobs spoke to me. His excitement about the iPod won me over. So at lunch on the day it was released, I plunked down $399 for the 60 gig model.
That first iPod purchase has lead to so many more I’ve lost count. My family has owned five iPhones and two iPads and there’s no doubt the three Windows PCs in our home will eventually be replaced with Apple products.
Jobs falls into the greatness category, and I have no doubt I’ll be telling my kids about him just as I’ll tell them about Jordan and Chapman.