After the 1989-1990 season, which resulted in another unsuccessful trip to the playoffs, Michael Jordan realized he needed to take his game to another level, and the only way to do that would be by dedicating himself to training. So, he teamed up with Tim Grover and started an early morning workout plan. One at a time, teammates joined the sessions, and consequently, the Bulls went on to win six NBA Championships. The Breakfast Club was established.
Years later, legend of the Breakfast Club and the affect it had on participants sparked an idea within the Jordan Brand organization. Impressed by what they heard, Jordan Brand developed an initiative based on overcoming athletic weaknesses through hard work and training.
Longtime friend of Jordan and Jordan Brand Executive Fred Whitfield watched as Jordan’s career and the Breakfast Club evolved. Whitfield retells the story of these morning workout sessions that changed a man, improved a team and inspired a brand 15-plus years after the Club’s establishment.
Why did it start?
FW: The Bulls kept making it to the Eastern Conference Finals; they just couldn’t get past the Pistons. The summer after they lost again, Michael did some soul searching to figure out exactly how to beat them.
Joe Dumars, the guy Michael probably respected the most defensively, was an extremely strong player who played Michael really hard. And when it came to crunch time, Games 6 and 7, it just seemed like Joe had a little edge. Even with Michael’s great games, if he had just a little more juice in the engine, he probably could have gotten the Bulls over the top.
So Michael and Tim put their heads together and decided that it made more sense from endurance, strength and mental standpoints to work out through the whole season, instead of periodically during the off-season. So when Michael went into the 20-game playoff period after an 82-game schedule, he would feel just as strong as he did at the beginning of the year. The original reason for the Breakfast Club was to get past the Pistons; because Michael thought if they could do that, they’d have the chance to win a world championship.
What is The Breakfast Club?
FW: Most guys dreaded their two-hour practice from 11 to 1. But a small group of guys, who really wanted to push themselves, formed this Breakfast Club thing. They’d work out a few times a week before practice. Then, when they were done working out, some time between 9 and 9:15, Michael’s chef cooked them breakfast. That’s how it really became the Breakfast Club. Those guys sat down to eat breakfast together, and then they’d go the Berto Center for practice.
Where did The Breakfast Club meet?
FW: Michael had a full gym in his basement. It just made sense to work out there, because the team practiced at the Berto Center, which is about 15 minutes from Michael’s house. When did they FW: Three to four days a week, Tim actually drove from downtown Chicago to Michael’s house. They’d put in a good, hard hour of lifting, starting between 7:30 and 8:00 a.m. They didn’t do heavy lifting, but instead a lot of agility work, quick reps, light weights—just stuff to build strength they could carry throughout the year.
FW: One of the guys was Ron Harper; he had so much respect for Michael. Harper totally embraced Michael, and Michael embraced him. Ron really started falling into Michael’s work ethic, which is what I think helped him sustain his career so long. He was there literally every morning with Michael in the Breakfast Club.
Scottie Pippen came quite a bit—not every day, but a lot. The other kind of wild card guy was Randy Brown, a defensive stopper who was a backup point guard. He was the guy who’d enter the game in the third or fourth quarter and really shut down the opposing team’s point guard. Charles Oakley was the last guy. He wasn’t on the Bulls at the time, but he and Michael had been really close since Michael’s rookie year. He’s a workout fanatic. When he was in town, he’d come work out with Michael and really push those guys.
How did this impact the Jordan Brand?
Roman Vega [Brand Manager for the Jordan Brand]: In Michael Jordan’s pursuit of excellence, MJ was driven to turn his perceived weaknesses into strengths. As a brand, we are taking that same approach by inspiring our consumers to take stock in their own abilities to turn their weaknesses into strengths by creating their own Breakfast Clubs.