There are few memories better for a player than the first time meeting Michael Jordan. And it’s no surprise if that meeting winds up changing their life in multiple ways. Recently, former NBA veteran Jamal Crawford opened up about the first time meeting Jordan and how it impacted his whole career. But oddly, it was MJ who expressed an interest in meeting Crawford first.
Michael Jordan took an interest in Jamal Crawford
In 2000, Jordan was an executive for the Washington Wizards. Crawford, meanwhile, was a skinny freshman at the University of Michigan. However, Crawford would soon learn he had an admirer.
“When I was going through the draft process, my dad was telling me, ‘MJ likes your game.'” Crawford said on All The Smoke. “I’m like, ‘Dad, how do you know that?’ This ain’t social media, this ain’t this era. You don’t know Michael Jordan.”
Crawford then explained how his dad and Ahmad Rashad both attended the University of Oregon at the same time. Rashad, who shares a close friendship with Jordan, was able to tell Jamal’s father about Michael’s interest.
“Fast-forward, I get drafted by Chicago,” Crawford continued. “And [Jordan’s trainer] Tim Grover hit me one day and was like, ‘Yo, MJ says you could meet him.’ I’m like, ‘What?’ He says, ‘Yeah, he says you could meet him.’ So 6:30 in the morning, I shoot down there … and it’s myself, MJ, and Tim Grover in the gym. And I’m trying not to talk because he’s doing his workouts, so when he talks to me I speak back.”
Jordan, who at the time was still a year away from returning to the court as a member of the Wizards, then went a step further, inviting Crawford to work out with him during the summer. From there, a rock-solid relationship was born.
Crawford attributes his success to Jordan
MJ and JC weren’t just workout buddies for a summer. The two wound up becoming incredibly close, even becoming teammates … in pick-up basketball games. And as you can expect, they dominated the competition.
“Just having that conversation, to us building our relationship, to getting to the point where we played pick-up for two years,” Crawford said to HoopsWave. “He wouldn’t play a pick-up game until I got there because I would help the Bulls and had to drive down there. We never lost in two years and we played against everybody.”
Jordan’s influence also clearly translated to the NBA court, as Crawford told All The Smoke how MJ helped shape his next 20 years.
“That’s what set the foundation for my whole career. Because my confidence went crazy once I was around him, and playing with him, and him giving me confidence like, ‘Yo, you got it.’ And this wasn’t just a young player, a vet, or even an All-Star telling me I’m nice. This was the greatest player ever, saying I got it.”Jamal Crawford
In an earlier interview with The Association, Crawford explained, “Playing with MJ was one of the best things of my career. Here I have the best player ever, picking me up on his team and encouraging me to be aggressive, teaching me lessons along the way. What’s better than that? Once I was with him and he showed confidence in me, there was no looking back.”
Jamal Crawford had an excellent NBA career
Jordan has been criticized for his eye for talent as an NBA executive. But he was right on the money in knowing Crawford was going to be a very good professional player.
Jamal’s career was spent with a whopping nine teams across 20 seasons. In 2009-10 with the Atlanta Hawks, he averaged 18.0 points off of the bench to win his first Sixth Man of the Year Award. Four years later he won it again, this time after averaging 18.6 points for the Los Angeles Clippers. Two years later, he became the first player in NBA history to win three Sixth Man of the Year Awards.
While Crawford will mostly be remembered as a star off of the bench, he had several Jordan-esque scoring performances. At 39, he became the oldest player in NBA history to score at least 50 points, doing so in the final game of the 2018-19 season with the Phoenix Suns. It also made him the first player ever to score 50 points in a game for four different franchises.
Crawford, who’s also one of the best ball handlers of his era, was a marksman from beyond the arc. The 41-year-old is eighth all-time in 3-pointers made with 2,221. In addition, his 11,279 points off of the bench rank second all-time to Lou Williams, the only other player with three Sixth Man Awards. But Crawford owns a distinct piece of history all to himself as the king of the four-point play.
He may not be the player his idol was, but you can make a strong case for Jamal Crawford being the Michael Jordan of sixth men.
All statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference.