The only competitive advantage the Hornets have over others is Michael Jordan. Charlotte is far from a glamorous market; winning is far from a guarantee, organizational culture is far from established, and yet, the potential of the GOAT sharing his basketball knowledge lures the players into wearing the Hornets uniform.
Remember Tony Parker leaving the San Antonio Spurs and taking his talents to Charlotte? MJ was the only reason he did it. “When Michael Jordan called me, my idol, I thought, let’s go,” Tony said. “For me, I feel like closing the loop, to finish my career in his club, it’s something special for me because it’s him that made me want to play basketball.”
It’s even better to kick start your NBA career with Jordan being a phone call away. This year’s rookie class is the latest to have that opportunity, and James Bouknight, who the Hornets selected 11th overall, has already capitalized on it. But he didn’t initiate it.
Just as the Hornets wrapped up back-to-back Summer League games, after he completed his media duties, Bouknight checked his phone. That’s when he noticed he had a text message from none other than Jordan himself.
He texted me. He texted me and told me to give him a call. He basically critiqued my game and what he saw there. Not many 20-year-olds, first year in the league, can say the best player ever to touch a basketball is calling them, helping them, and giving them pointers. So, I took that to heart and I took that personal. And I tried my best to go out there and have a good game.James Bouknight, Sports Illustrated
Jordan’s pep talk bore fruit. Despite a 106-104 loss to the Spurs, Bouknight played a great game — he scored a team-high 23 points to go along with 4 rebounds, and 8 assists — after going 4-for-11 and committing 5 turnovers in Monday’s loss to the Sacramento Kings.
Yesterday’s performance gave Bouk a much-needed confidence boost, preparing him for an up-and-down rookie experience come the regular season. And both him, as well as the Hornets’ coaching staff, credits MJ for it.
It’s amazing. Michael Jordan is the greatest of all time. For a kid like Bouk, for a kid as young as he is to get a call from the greatest of all time and say, ‘Hey this is what I saw and you can improve,’ I don’t know what that feeling is. But it must be amazing. He obviously carried it over. Now, there’s some stuff we have to still have to grow, but that’s what a young guy is. The fact that he took this big step is huge.Dutch Gaitley, Sports Illustrated
The Hornets hope the 20-year-old rookie can continue to build momentum following yesterday’s performance as they await a matchup against the Raptors on Saturday. “Now can he do it again? Can he get eight assists again? Can he get more than eight assists again, and be better defensively? Because that’s where struggled a little bit today,” Gaitley said. “But for Bouk, that call he got from M.J. will definitely help him these next two games.”
Not only that, it should help him throughout his entire rookie campaign. One thing we know about MJ; he’s willing to be a mentor for the next generation of NBA players. But he also isn’t the one to give out advice left and right.
The fact he chose to reach out to Bouknight two games into his NBA career tells us the Hornets owner recognized something in the kid. Now it’s on him to get better day in and day out. Michael Jordan is obviously on his side.