Michael Jordan's Legend Lives in Young NBA Stars Who Grew Up After He Retired

Basketball's Young Talents Strive to Be Jordan, Even Without Seeing Him Play

Chris Emma
February 14, 2020 - 12:30 pm

CHICAGO (670 The Score) -- More than two decades after Michael Jordan led the Bulls to their sixth NBA championship, his iconic brand still transcends continents and generations alike.

NBA All-Star weekend arrived Friday in Chicago, where Jordan's legend lived for 13 seasons and led to a remarkable dynasty. To this day, Jordan's greatness has helped shape the game's rising stars -- even if they weren't old enough to see him play.

"I grew up idolizing MJ," Knicks rookie wing RJ Barrett said. "He's the best to do it.

"I really love his fighting spirit, his competitive spirit."

The No. 3 pick in the NBA Draft last summer, Barrett is just 19 and was born two years after Jordan led the Bulls to their sixth title in 1998. Barrett wasn't even 3 years old when Jordan officially retired in 2003.

But the Toronto native Barrett wanted to be like Jordan despite never watching him live. His viewpoint is one shared by many of his peers.

Many of the NBA's young talents will play in the Rising Stars Game on Friday night inside the United Center, where Jordan once played. To those emerging stars, that building was the house of Jordan highlights that they've watched on YouTube.

Wizards rookie Rui Hachimura, a 22-year-old forward who grew up in Japan, studied Jordan's fadeaway shot and tried to craft that into his own. Heat guard Kendrick Nunn, a Chicago native who was 2 years old when the Bulls won their last championship, still finds himself fascinated by Jordan's intense drive.

"He's one of the greats," Nunn said. "Everything about him was detailed and focused."

In 2018, Kansas star Devonte' Graham was drafted early in the second round by the Hornets, who are owned by Jordan. Graham arrived in Charlotte hopeful to prove himself as a player and was greeted into the Hornets organization by Jordan.

Graham was completely starstruck.

"I was like, 'Oh, he knows my name,'" he recalled. "I was seeing the GOAT right there."

Jordan, who turns 57 on Monday, remains an integral part of the NBA. His Jordan Brand shoe company includes young representatives like Mavericks star Luka Doncic, who was named to the Rising Stars Game and the All-Star Game. And Jordan's impact on today's NBA goes extends beyond that.

The greatness of Jordan's past is ever present with this next crop of young stars, who despite never seeing him play are striving to live up to his legend.

"He's going to be idolized in every generation," Barrett said. "He's the best to ever do it."

Chris Emma covers the Bears, Chicago’s sports scene and more for 670TheScore.com. Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670.