Most basketball players have heroes, players they look up to as they develop their game. During the 1980 and 1990s, Michael Jordan was a hero to many. Jordan likely broke the hearts of some of those who looked up to him by not signing an autograph or not being able to pose for a picture. If you were one that was rejected by Air Jordan, you’re not alone. Jordan, himself, was rejected by his own childhood hero.
Michael Jordan grew up idolizing Walter Davis
When Michael Jordan was younger, before his college days and throughout his time at the University of North Carolina, he looked up to Walter Davis. Jordan loved Davis’ game. Davis was a 6-foot-6 shooting guard/small forward and was one of the purest shooters in the game.
Davis also went to UNC and was eight years ahead of Jordan, who modeled his game after him. Jordan actually worked with Davis to help improve his game. When Jordan hit his game-winning jumper in the 1982 title game against Georgetown, that was a shot Davis had been working on with him, telling him those mid-range jumpers would always be key.
“I worked with him on the jab-step and the pump fake, which were some of my favorite moves,” Davis once said, according to Basketball Network. “The mid-range shot was something I emphasized, I remember telling him that it was important to make that shot. When he helped us win the 82 national championships, that was a midrange shot. Michael had a lot of natural ability with that shot.”
Davis was a six-time NBA All-Star and Jordan mentor
Walter Davis played his college ball at the University of North Carolina before spending 15 years in the NBA. The Phoenix Suns made him the fifth overall pick in the 1977 NBA draft. He became a six-time NBA All-Star and averaged 18.9 points per game for his career.
Michael Jordan was always a big fan of Davis and he used to work out with his idol. Davis was always impressed with the work ethic of Jordan, who later went on to become one of the greatest NBA players of all time. Jordan’s success never surprised Davis.
“All he seemed to do was work on his game,” Davis said, according to Basketball Network. “When you combine his work ethic, natural gifts, talent, and athletic ability, he is the total package. You can’t help from being the best player of all time when you have all that on your side. Michael got up for everybody. He always wanted to prove how good he was, he wanted to win the game, every time he stepped on the floor, that was all that was on his mind.”
Jordan was once rejected by Davis
Although Michael Jordan and Walter Davis had a great relationship, Davis did reject Jordan at one point. It wasn’t for an autograph or a picture, however. Jordan once tried to recruit Davis to play with him on the Chicago Bulls.
According to The Chicago Tribune, Jordan idolized Davis and thought Davis would be a great piece in helping the Bulls in their quest for an NBA title. Jordan made several personal calls to Davis, who didn’t appear to be swayed by the Bulls’ star.
The aging Davis wound up signing with the Denver Nuggets instead. Davis, who battled drug problems late in his career with the Phoenix Suns, played his final year with the Nuggets during the 1991-92 season.