Adam Morrison was a huge Michael Jordan fan growing up, and he probably didn’t have much choice in the matter.
The Gonzaga great was born in 1984, exactly one month after Jordan was drafted third overall by the Chicago Bulls. Morrison collected Jordan’s sports cards and posters as his formative years coincided with Jordan leading the Bulls to six NBA championships.
Their paths crossed in 2006. Jordan bought a minority ownership stake in the Charlotte Bobcats about two weeks before the franchise selected Morrison with the third overall pick.
Morrison recalled his first time in the same room with Jordan coming at a team meeting.
“He’s the biggest celebrity in my lifetime,” Morrison said. “It was pretty surreal just being around him.”
Jordan was more behind the scenes – he became Charlotte’s majority owner in 2010 when Morrison was with the Los Angeles Lakers – but he attended some practices and made selected road trips.
“One of the coolest things, I’m walking out of a road game (against the Indiana Pacers) and it was him, (Derek) Jeter and (Larry) Bird,” Morrison said. “Three of the all-time greats just chatting and walking.”
Another seriously cool thing: collecting $100 from Jordan. There was essentially a standing $100 bet on NBA rosters when their college teams squared off. During Morrison’s rookie season in 2006-07, the Zags knocked off second-ranked North Carolina 82-74 on Nov. 22 at Madison Square Garden. Morrison poured in 26 points in a victory over Boston on the same night.
“I called him out on it at the Christmas party, I mean I didn’t make a big scene or anything,” Morrison said. “And he pulled out a $100 and gave it to me.”
Jordan didn’t offer Morrison advice, but the NBA icon occasionally sat on the end of the bench during games and gave input to the coaching staff. Morrison missed the 2007-08 season with a knee injury but was on hand after a loss when Jordan flashed his trademark competitiveness, chewing out the team in the locker room.
Morrison has tuned in for ESPN’s “The Last Dance” documentary on the last of Chicago’s six titles in 1998. Morrison has long been convinced of Jordan’s unparalleled status as a celebrity and ranking in NBA history.
“I’ve been around celebrities in L.A. and he’s easily the one that causes the most gaga from people,” Morrison said. “To me, Jordan is 1A and Kobe (Bryant) is 1B. Kobe had the same buzz, obviously in L.A., around him on trips.”
Jordan was named MVP in all six of the Bulls’ championships. He’s a 14-time All-Star, five-time MVP, 10-time scoring champion and nine-time first-team all-defensive.
“I don’t think it’s a debate,” Morrison said. “The winning and how Jordan changed the game.
“Kurt Rambis played with Magic (Johnson) and against Jordan and coached Kobe. We asked him and he said the only difference between Jordan (and Bryant) was Jordan was quicker and more athletic. He was lightning fast, quick. Watch all those highlight tapes, it wasn’t just dunks. It was pull-ups and fadeaways.
“Obviously, LeBron (James) is fantastic, but the coolness factor isn’t even close. You watch one and you watch the other and Jordan was like the guy.”
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