I’m fourteen-years-old and I’m making my fifteenth and final mix tape of the year on my JVC dual-cassette, ‘Super-Bass Horn’ boom box with metallic gray trim, mustard lettering and the ultimate early 90s flex move, a CD player on top with a tiny digital screen that could only display three things: play, pause and skip.
It was primitive. It was clunky. It was glorious. I mowed lawns for five months to buy it and there I was, about to put the finishing touches on my masterpiece of a mix tape that I would proudly label, ‘Hyped ‘92 – DJ Finxelaneous’.
Oh yeah. I left out the part where I called myself DJ Finxelaneous because, frankly, it’s an embarrassing thing to admit. My nickname in middle school was ‘Finx’ and since DJs put together miscellaneous songs on mixes I thought it would be clever to smash them together for my DJ name.
Thus: DJ Finxelaneous.
What does this have to do with ‘Be Like Mike’? I’m almost there. Hang on.
So I was at my desk with an old black and white, cow-patterned composite notebook open with a list of all the songs I wanted on Hyped ’92 staring me in the face. I felt like an NFL General Manager on cut day. My roster was fat. I only had 30 minutes per cassette side and being relegated to ‘Side B’ was an indignity I wouldn’t wish on any artist.
I ran down my list again and I was feeling really good about the new stuff.
I had “Jump” by Kris Kross and “Jump Around” by House of Pain and “Humpin’ Around” by Bobby Brown, even though in retrospect I don’t think I had any idea what that meant. I had “Ain’t too Proud to Beg” by TLC, “The Choice is Yours” by Black Sheep, “Warm it Up” (in a stunning second appearance by Kris Kross) and then a hard right turn to “Human Touch” by Springsteen, “Keep the Faith” by Bon Jovi and then a few other rock groups who have faded from memory.
And this is where things got dicey.
My typical finishing move to wrap up ‘Side A’ was to end on a show stopping, walk-off home run of a song to bring the house down, properly capping off another brilliant mix tape. I needed a song with juice. A song that made my heart pump and my head nod. In the early 90s, LL Cool J and Def Leppard played the role of Mariano Rivera on my playlists, coolly and calmly closing tape after tape with little drama.
On the outline for Hyped ’92, however, I wrote down the name of one song in the margins of my notebook that I couldn’t bring myself to finish on.
Why? Because it wasn’t really a song.
I mean, it was a song, but it wasn’t by any artist you know. And it wasn’t from an album or a video on MTV or even a movie. It was from a commercial. Maybe the best sports commercial of all time, but still, a commercial.
The song was “Be Like Mike” and the artist as far as I could tell was Gatorade.
Sometimes I dream, that he is me,
You’ve got to see that’s how I dream to be,
I dream I move, I dream I groove,
Oh, if I could be Like Mike…
I loved that song. It made me happy. It made my buddies happy. It made the entire world happy. When the commercial came on everyone stopped to watch. It was mesmerizing and catchy and cool and it was, you know, Michael Jordan doing amazing Michael Jordan things with regular kids and teens just like us.
I had never faced this problem on a mix tape before.
I was stuck between a sports drink theme and Def Leppard; between pouring some sugar on me and pouring some sugar in me.
After much deliberation and second-guessing, I went with “Be Like Mike”.
The moment of truth for this decision arrived that weekend, when friends came over to play basketball and I debuted Hyped ’92 on my boom box while we shot around. Nobody said a word for the first 26 minutes of the tape (which was a great sign). The playlist blended perfectly into the background, exactly what any mix tape master wants. Then, the first few notes and referee whistles from “Be Like Mike” came on and I clocked my friends’ faces. One by one they looked up, smiled and started bobbing their heads.
In the words of Patrick Bateman, relief washed over me in an awesome wave. As I suspected, the song had broken free of its “commercial jingle” handcuffs and made a run for it into mainstream music and survived.
I shouldn’t have been surprised. We all wanted to be like Mike and this song was our anthem. If watching The Last Dance has proven anything after nearly thirty years, almost nothing has changed.
I mean… MJ has driven an entire sports media cycle for a full month. We did a full episode on Jordan and the Bulls on Lunch Break here. And one of my favorite biographies, Michael Jordan: The Life, by Roland Lazenby, is back to being a bestseller and I put it in my personal pantheon.
Even Phil Jackson’s book, Eleven Rings, which I wrote about here has climbed back atop the bestseller list.
All because of Michael Jordan. The undisputed G.O.A.T…
I knew his theme song belonged on Hyped ’92.
Jon Finkel is the award-winning author of The Life of Dad, Jocks In Chief, The Athlete, Heart Over Height,“Mean” Joe Greene , The ‘Greatest Stars of the NBA’ Series and other books about sports, fatherhood, fitness and more. His work has been endorsed by Spike Lee, Tony Dungy, Jerry Jones, Mark Cuban and Chef Robert Irvine. He is the co-host of the Life of Dad Show podcast and Lunch Break Facebook Live Show, and he’s written for GQ, Men’s Health, Yahoo! Sports, The New York Times and dozens of other national publications. He is also an avid speaker.