When younger players meet Jordan for the first time, they usually get starstruck and sometimes freeze despite being celebrities themselves. Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James said he couldn’t believe Jordan was real when he first met him in 2001. The four-time MVP called His Airness “Black Jesus” and was in awe of MJ’s presence.
Michael Jordan nodded at Damian Lillard: “What do I do right now?”
On an episode of the Knuckleheads podcast with former NBA forwards Quentin Richardson and Darius Miles, Lillard told the story about Jordan nodding at him once. The Blazers star nodded back and couldn’t believe the six-time champion knew who he was.
“I was walking in the tunnel going to the locker room,” Lillard said. “And he was a couple feet like behind me. I kind of turned and looked, and he just like nodded his head. I nodded my head, and I was just like what do I do right now?”
People get so nervous when they meet Jordan that they don’t know what to say and start shaking. Lillard kept his composure and shared a quick “respect” moment with the five-time MVP, but inside, he likely had butterflies since he just interacted with the man Indiana Pacers great Reggie Miller used to call “Black Cat.”
Michael Jordan inspired so many people to play basketball
Jordan is the reason so many young boys decided to pursue a basketball career. Guys like LeBron, Kevin Durant, Dwyane Wade, Chris Paul, Carmelo Anthony, and Allen Iverson (just to name a few) have talked about how watching Bulls games in the ’90s inspired them to become basketball players because of how special Jordan was.
Young ballplayers watched Jordan dominate with the Bulls and then went outside either on their driveway or public court to practice the moves they saw MJ do. LeBron wore No. 23 with the Cleveland Cavaliers and Lakers because of Jordan. As much as people want to pit James against MJ because of the GOAT debate, we must remember that Jordan was LeBron’s childhood hero, and LBJ likely only wants to make the Hall of Famer proud of what he does on the basketball court.
Lillard grew up in Oakland, California. His basketball heroes were Jason Kidd and Gary Payton. However, the six-time All-Star said in 2020 that Iverson was his favorite player growing up. What’s interesting about Dame’s answer is that there would be no Iverson without Jordan, which connects Lillard to MJ even more than he thinks.
Allen Iverson on MJ: “That’s my hero”
Jordan was Iverson’s hero growing up in Hampton, Virginia. The Philadelphia 76ers legend tends to get emotional when he talks about the six-time Finals MVP because of how much he impacted his life.
“That’s my hero,” Iverson said about Jordan when he appeared on the Knuckleheads podcast. “Like, that’s my guy. Like, I ain’t no sucker, man. I can’t help what I love and what I care about, what means something to me, and who created Allen Iverson. Like, he helped create Allen Iverson. I love that motherf—–. I love Michael Jordan.”
It’s fascinating to think about how if Jordan didn’t exist, there would be no LeBron, Iverson, or Lillard. After all, MJ inspired the first two, and Iverson inspired Lillard. It somehow always comes back to Jordan, which is why he earned the nickname “Black Jesus.”