Heir Jordan - East Valley Tribune: Sports

Heir Jordan

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Posted: Friday, July 8, 2005 4:46 am | Updated: 7:24 am, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

INDIANAPOLIS - Jeffrey Jordan needs no introduction at the Nike All-America Camp.

The contagious smile, penetrating stare and determined look on his boyish 16-year-old face resemble the features of his world-famous father, Michael, and offer proof that young Jeffrey is the true heir to the Air Jordan legacy.

If there was any doubt about the lineage, he wears it proudly on the front of his Tshirt: J-O-R-D-A-N.

But Jordan has come to Indianapolis to prove one thing — that he, too, can play basketball.

‘‘I want to show that I belong here,’’ he said. ‘‘I guess I’m not the top one or two or three or four players in my state, but I want to show that I can play here and that I’m not just a name.’’

For Jordan, who will be a junior at Loyola Academy College Prep near Chicago, that will be a challenge. His father is considered by many to be the greatest player in NBA history after leading the Chicago Bulls to six titles, filling highlight reels with breathtaking dunks. It was also Michael Jordan who turned Nike from a budding shoe company into a worldwide giant.

Following in those footsteps could intimidate most kids. Not Jeffrey, an all-conference selection as a sophomore.

‘‘To me, he’s just my dad,’’ Jordan said.

Jordan realizes he’s different. He stands just 6 feet — six inches shorter than his dad — weighs 170 pounds, and still remembers the times he attended Bulls practices as a child and watched his father play with an unforgettable fierceness.

Already, Jordan is under scrutiny. As Michael Jordan’s son, expectations are higher than normal, reporters are already asking about his vertical jump and it’s virtually impossible to hide even when he’s playing with 120 of the top prep players in the world.

‘‘That’s the greatest basketball player’s son,’’ said Jai Lucas, Jordan’s roommate this week.

Just two days into the weeklong camp, Jordan has already become the camp’s darling.

Everywhere he goes, fans and reporters follow, hoping to get a sneak peek at the younger Jordan and glean any clue they can about whether he can someday approach his father’s greatness.

Being in the spotlight hardly fazes Jordan. Dealing with dozens of reporters, a rare occurrence for someone not ranked among the best of the 2007 class, he answered questions like a pro — laughing, smiling, joking and telling stories while deftly avoiding the temptation to give away any family secrets. Yet Jordan, who has some Division I schools showing interest in him, is intent on carving out his own niche.

His number, 32, is a reversal of his father’s more familiar 23. He turned down an invitation to attend last year’s Nike camp because he didn’t think he was ready and, this year, Jordan hopes to use the camp as his coming out party. He glides smoothly without the ball, looking for a chance to put his father’s advice about playing fundamentally sound to work. But he may never avoid the questions.

‘‘The most common question? Well, that would be whether I was in ‘Space Jam,’ " he said, referring to the animated film starring his father and several Looney Tunes characters. ‘‘I wasn’t. The next most common question from kids is whether I live in a big house. I tell them, ‘Well, yeah,’ and they’re like ‘Oh man, I wish I could be you.’ "

Jordan has no choice although there certainly are times he would rather just be one of the guys.

This camp at least gives him a chance. Lucas is the son of former NBA player and coach John Lucas. Jonnie West is the son of Hall of Famer Jerry West and sons of other former players, such as Patrick Ewing Jr., have preceded him at the Nike camp.

But wherever Jordan goes, he still has the target on his back.

Jordan even acknowledges there have been times he’s felt opponents have wanted to ‘‘take him out’’ so they could brag about it to their friends.

Off the court, though, Jordan tells of a family life that seems about as regular as most father-son relationships.

There are regular debates about the new minimum age limit for the NBA draft — Michael, who made Kwame Brown the first prep player ever chosen No. 1, supports it; Jeffrey resents it. And then there are the one-on-one contests, which Jeffrey said have become less frequent as his father ages.

‘‘Sometimes he let me beat him, other times he would just try to block my shots,’’ he said. ‘‘I beat him once, but he’s getting older now, so maybe I could beat him.’’

But Jordan insists it was always his decision to play basketball, though his father did shield him from playing on the national level at an early age. These days, they chat about what works about his game, what doesn’t work and what it will take for him to succeed at the next level.

But wherever Jeffrey Jordan ends up, he knows this: He will never escape his father’s image.

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