Ray Lewis on where he thinks Michael Jordan's leadership style came from - and how it affected his own

Ethan Cadeaux
NBC Sports Washington

During this past Sunday's episode of 'The Last Dance' documentary on Michael Jordan's final championship season with the Chicago Bulls, the film dove deep into his leadership style and how much it wore on himself during his career.

Former Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis, an incredible leader in his own right, told Rich Eisen on Wednesday his opinion of where Jordan's leadership style originated from, and why the Bulls star's leadership style may have been seen as harsh or dictator-esque to some.

"That leadership came from being denied something," Lewis said on the Rich Eisen Show. "It's one thing to watch it now and be like 'I can't believe he was like that.' It's another thing to ready his story enough to understand that one kid that was cut from his basketball team that said he wasn't good enough to do it. That builds a mentality."

As earlier episodes of the docuseries showed, when Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team as a sophomore, his entire work ethic changed. He grinded for hours each day, and two years later, he was one of the best high school basketball players in the country.

"When you think about how Jordan did it, a lot of it comes from the things he didn't have or things that were taken away from him before he was Michael Jordan," Lewis said. "He didn't have a Plan B. When you watch this last ride of Jordan, all you saw was the essence of 'I don't have a Plan B. There's no other option for me. I'm built to do this. Born to do this. There's no other direction than straight to get this done.'"

When he was drafted by Chicago in 1984, Jordan immediately became the face of the franchise and quickly turned the team around. By the late 1980s, Jordan was considered one of the best players, if not the best, in the league, but had yet to get the Bulls a championship.

After losing to the Detroit Pistons in two straight conference finals -- two physically and mentally draining series -- Jordan upped his training regimen to an even greater extent, determined not to lose to Detroit once more.

The documentary captured glimpses of Jordan in practice, often challenging his teammates, and in some cases, potentially going over the line to make a point. Jordan held his teammates to an incredibly high standard, but as he stated in the documentary, he would never ask any of his teammates to do something that he wouldn't do himself.

"Sometimes, you can look at it as a dictator and really being harsh. Some of it can be viewed that way," Lewis said on Jordan's leadership style. "But if you get results they way they had, they got results. I don't condone disrespecting a man in any way. 

"Everybody in the locker room may not have you same drive, may not have your same opportunities, may not have your same ability," Lewis continued. "They don't have it. So now, you have to find it differently. You have to find a way to push their buttons and hopefully do it in a way where they don't say 'I hated him.'"

Eisen pointed out to Lewis that several of his teammates had told Eisen in the past that they would be afraid to look the Ravens linebacker in the eyes after they made a mistake on the field. Lewis explained that was because, like Jordan, he held his teammates to an incredibly high standard and wanted 100 percent effort the entire time.

"That was a different point of accountability. That was me saying, 'I'm going to hold you accountable. We went over this,'" Lewis said. "So when you come to the sideline, don't give me [any] excuse. Are you going to blow a coverage? Absolutely. Are you going to forget an assignment? Absolutely. But I'm talking about pure effort. My standard was I'm going to set the bar so high that when you look at your leader, this is the way your leader leans."

The former Ravens captain credited his old coach and Hall of Fame linebacker Mike Singletary for developing his own leadership style. By the end of his decorated career, Lewis wasn't trying to just lead his teammates to become better football players. He wanted them to become better men.

"My leadership changed because I wanted to make men better men," he said. "If you got a better man, you got a better football player, you got a better teammate, you got a better husband, you got a better father. You have all of these things if you make the man better. But you must make him hold himself accountable."

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Ray Lewis on where he thinks Michael Jordan's leadership style came from - and how it affected his own originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

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