In his last two years in college, Will Perdue appeared to be on his way to becoming a legit star in the NBA. His third and fourth-year averages: 17.4 points and 18.3 points for Vanderbilt, respectively. Unknown to him, his decision to join Vanderbilt would hunt him one day in the professional league.
Perdue chose Vanderbilt over Virginia, Georgia Tech, Florida, and Purdue. He made it in the NBA, but an instance with Michael Jordan made him think about what would have happened had he chosen to play for Purdue instead.
MJ being MJ, he tried to unleash his competitive spirit on his teammate. This story often has two endings: devastation or motivation to the player. Fortunately, Perdue used that insult to improve himself, which worked wonders in his career. He shared the incident in an episode of Basketball News’ podcast, The Rex Chapman Show, with Josh Hopkins.
“He (Michael Jordan) says I can’t refer to him as Will Perdue because he’s not good enough to play in the Big 10 so I’m just gonna call him Will Vanderbilt. And I shook it off but since I didn’t play a lot, it hurt. I didn’t come in and have to impress the coaches but I also had to impress Michael Jordan. I just kept plugging away, spent a lot of time in the weight room. Came early, left late.”
At that time, MJ probably only was aware of the Big 10 and ACC because TV coverage was limited back in the late 80s. As with most of his teammates who received tough love from him, Perdue used that as motivation to get better. We’re not sure if MJ knew Purdue was among Perdue’s choices in college, but the message had been sent loud and clear: you have to earn his trust on the court no matter where you played in college.
What’s Perdue up to now?
The former Chicago Bulls center won four titles in his career: three with Chicago and one with the San Antonio Spurs. Not everyone can claim they played with MJ, earned his respect, and won titles with him. Right now, Perdue is a studio analyst for NBC Sports, covering the pre-game and post-game discussions.
Perdue left his mark at Vanderbilt and made some records there. His .606 field goal percentage remains to be a school record, and he als0 holds the all-time blocks record with 157 career rejections. Perdue was also named the 1988 SEC Player of the Year and 1988 Southeastern Conference Athlete of the Year.
So, in the end, being called Will Vanderbilt may not be as insulting as others might initially perceive it to be. It could be a distinction and special recognition on his part for his contributions to the school.