Marcus Jordan handling life as a rarefied heir
IN SUNRISE, FLA. After sophomore guard Marcus Jordan misfired on a jump shot minutes into a Central Florida game against Miami last Saturday, a fan sitting a few rows from the court taunted gleefully.
"You're not your father!" the man said. "Did you get a DNA test? Are you sure?"
Heckling rains every time the Knights hit the road, and Jordan's expression never changes. His head never turns. He knows he lacks his famous father's size and ability to hover by the rim. He wears silver Air Jordan shoes and a black Air Jordan headband, but this heir Jordan did not get all of his father's gifts.
In many ways, Jordan isn't like Mike at all. He sports black-rimmed glasses, a goatee and mustache, and tattoos up and down both arms.
Yet on Saturday, he received a congratulatory text message from his father, Chicago Bulls legend Michael Jordan, minutes after using a hard-nosed, workmanlike effort to fuel a second-half comeback that resulted in a 84-78 victory. The win gave UCF a 10-0 record. It also set the stage for the Knights, who toppled No. 16 Florida on Dec. 1, to climb into the top 25 for the first time in the program's history, entering the rankings at No. 24.
Jordan, who at 6 feet 3 stands three inches shorter than his father, scored a game-high 23 points and dished out five assists, mixing level-headed, aggressive play with flashes of cold-hearted competitiveness that looked eerily familiar. He showed a flair for penetrating and getting the ball near the rim, if not always in the net, and pushing the ball upcourt. He earned the game's most valuable player award despite limping off with just more than a minute remaining with a sprained left ankle. (He did not play until the second half of Wednesday's win over U-Mass., finishing with seven points.)
"I don't think anybody could fit in those shoes as well as he does," said Knights point guard A.J. Rompza, who has known Jordan since their high school days together at Chicago's Whitney M. Young, the same magnet school first lady Michelle Obama attended.
Plenty of UCF fans drove the 21/2 hours down Florida's Turnpike from Orlando for Saturday's game, so the occasional hooting was masked by cheers from enthusiastic Knights' supporters. A true away game, Rompza said, usually involves incessant chants reminding Jordan of exactly who he is not.
Said Rompza: "I always tell him, 'I don't know how you deal with it.'"
Love of the game
From age three or four, when he stood in a celebratory Bulls' locker room with his brother, sister and mother, covering his eyes to keep out the spray of champagne, Marcus Jordan understood he had a remarkable dad and unusual opportunities. It never crossed his mind that extending the family tradition, which seemed so gloriously special and fun, could be a burden.
"I always wanted to play basketball," Marcus Jordan said. "It wasn't something like my dad was forcing me or pushing me . . . It was just me, loving playing basketball."
Besides, it was his older brother whom he idolized. Jeffrey Jordan, who is sitting out this season after transferring to UCF from Illinois over the summer, dominated play when the two brothers competed as little boys. The pair shot soft basketballs at kid-size rims situated at either end of their playroom, which happened to have a carpet imprinted with a mini Bulls' court.