Michael Jordan

Thanks to Michael Jordan, Alshon Jeffery has tons of shoes -- and much more

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Thanks to Michael Jordan, Alshon Jeffery has tons of shoes -- and much more

Alshon Jeffery calls them collector's items. 

In his house he has boxes and boxes of Jordans he's never worn. He doesn't even want to venture a guess as to how many he owns. 

"Some I may wear, some I may never wear," he said. "I've got so many shoes, man. I've got to put some in storage." 

For Jeffery, growing up in St. Matthews, South Carolina, Michael Jordan was everything. Jeffery was exactly eight years and four months old when Jordan hit that step-back jumper in the '98 finals against the Jazz and Jeffery completely fell in love with basketball. 

"I think any kid who even knew what basketball was back then wanted to be Michael Jordan after that," Jeffery wrote in ThePlayersTribune in March. "I was definitely one of them."

Basketball was Jeffery's first love and, naturally, Jordan was like a God. Long before he became an NFL player in the city where Jordan became a hero, long before he signed his first pro contract and long before he signed an endorsement deal with Jordan, Jeffery was already wearing his gear. 

Thanks to his accomplishments and ability as a football player, he got to not only meet Jordan but also become a member of the Jordan Brand family about four years ago.

"Coming from a small town, watching him as a kid, it's amazing," Jeffery said. "Because he takes care of his guys. We all are family."

As a Jordan athlete, Jeffery obviously gets a ton of gear. It's everywhere. On Thursday, he had 12 pairs of Jordan footwear in his locker at the NovaCare Complex: cleats, sneakers, slides. But that's not the only perk. He also gets to meet some really cool people and do some really cool things. 

What's the best experience he's ever gotten to have because of Jordan? 

Well, in 2015, he got to spend his 25th birthday at a private Prince concert.

"I think that was pretty cool," Jeffery said. "Rest in peace to Prince. I got to see him perform. Me and [Jordan's] birthday are around the same time. He had so many people up there. Every star that you can imagine was there, man. It was probably one of the best parties I've ever been to in my life."

Prince played at the private 30th-anniversary party of Jordan Brand at 23 Wall Street in New York on Valentine's Day, just three days before Jordan's birthday. According to published reports, celebrities like Jordan, Chris Rock, Jay Z, Beyonce, Rosario Dawson, Terrell Owens, Carmelo Anthony, Derek Jeter, Ludacris, Queen Latifah and Tim Meadows were in attendance.  

It was quite a lineup of stars. 

And quite a lineup of tracks from the musical icon. 

Prince played for over two hours and played the hits. Check out this setlist. Prince opened with Let's Go Crazy, closed with Purple Rain and played a ton of hits like When Doves Cry1999Kiss and Little Red Corvette in between.

And the whole time, a newly-turned 25-year-old Alshon Jeffery from St. Matthews, South Carolina — population just over 2,000 — stood there in awe and took it all in. 

That wasn't the only night Jeffery has gotten to hang out with some famous people by being a Jordan athlete. At every event the brand has, there are tons of famous Jordan athletes. 

Jeffery started going through the list: Andre Johnson, Jimmy Butler, Ray Allen, Michael Finley, Rip Hamilton. He could have kept going, but the reporter got the point. 

"Of course you talk about sports, they talk about who they got in they fantasy teams," Jeffery said with a chuckle. "It's back and forth. But everybody is pretty cool, man."

And then there are the shoes. 

This season, Jordan athletes in the NFL are wearing personalized cleats that celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Air Jordan XIII. Jeffery has a few different versions: green and black, all white, all black. 

Last year, Jordan Brand NFL players wore the Air Jordan IX. In 2015, they wore the Air Jordan VII

Before Jeffery came to town, the king of Jordan Brand in the Eagles' locker room was Jason Peters. According to the Eagles' media guide, Peters started his collection in 2006 and has a collection of over 2,500 in one giant closet of his home. Peters' personal favorites are the black and red 13s. 

What about Jeffery's favorite? 

"My favorite shoes are probably ... I like the 4s, I like the 3s, 14s," Jeffery said. "Of course the 11s. I think those are everyone's favorites, the 11. The 6s. Man, I like them all."

And maybe one day, he'll get around to wearing them all too. 

MLB Notes: Bryce Harper has deep bone bruise; Nationals hope for return this year

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MLB Notes: Bryce Harper has deep bone bruise; Nationals hope for return this year

WASHINGTON -- The Washington Nationals say Bryce Harper has a "significant" bone bruise in his left knee but no ligament damage, and general manager Mike Rizzo is hopeful the star outfielder will be back this season.

Harper injured his knee when he slipped on first base in the first inning of a rain-delayed game against the San Francisco Giants on Saturday night. Rizzo said Sunday that Harper had an MRI afterward that showed no structural damage.

"Although we feel we've dodged a bullet a bit here with any long-term ligament and tendon damage, the bone bruise is something of significance, and we're going to treat him cautiously and hopefully have him back later on this season," Rizzo said. "We put ourselves in a position that we can treat it cautiously and we'll continue down that road."

Rizzo says there's no timetable for Harper to return. The team is placing him on the 10-day disabled list and activating outfielder Michael Taylor.

Harper, the 2015 National League MVP, is having another spectacular season for division-leading Washington, hitting .326 with 29 home runs and 87 RBIs.

Rizzo -- and anyone watching the play -- feared it was a serious, potentially season-ending injury. Harper clutched at his left knee and didn't put any weight on it as he was helped off the field.

"We were all holding our breath last night a little bit and hoping for the best," Rizzo said. "Got a glimmer of hope last night when he was able to walk up the stairs from the dugout to the clubhouse and put some weight on it. Had some optimism."

Rizzo cautioned that "the bone bruise is real" and that the team has the luxury of being extra cautious because of its 14-game lead in the NL East. Given injuries to Harper, Stephen Strasburg -- who has a rehab assignment Monday -- and others, the Nationals' focus is getting healthy for the playoffs.

Rockies: Bettis to return after cancer diagnosis
MIAMI  -- Colorado Rockies right-hander Chad Bettis will complete his comeback from chemotherapy for testicular cancer by starting Monday night's game in Denver against Atlanta.

The 28-year-old Bettis finished his last round of treatment in May, two months after doctors discovered his testicular cancer had spread. He had surgery in November to remove the cancer, but it returned and he was forced to leave the team in March for chemotherapy.

The Rockies announced before their game Sunday at Miami that Bettis will rejoin the rotation.

"To see where he was when he was re-diagnosed, it was hard for us, because he was a big part of our team," manager Bud Black said. "To see him go through what he has had to go through, and to see him work his butt off -- a guy who had chemotherapy, and how that feels -- to where he is now, what a great story for all of us. It has been just wonderful to watch."

The game will be Bettis' first since Sept. 30. He went 14-8 for the Rockies last year.

Marlins: Michael Jordan to have small stake in team after sale
MIAMI -- A person familiar with the situation says NBA Hall of Famer Michael Jordan has a small stake in Derek Jeter's investment group that reached an agreement to buy the Miami Marlins.

The person confirmed Jordan's role to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity Sunday because the parties involved have not commented.

Jordan already owns the NBA Charlotte Hornets. He and Jeter have known each other for more than 20 years and are close friends.

A signed $1.2 billion agreement was submitted Saturday to Major League Baseball for Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria to sell the franchise to a group that includes Jeter, the former New York Yankees captain. Venture capitalist Bruce Sherman of Naples, Florida would be the controlling owner.

The Marlins expect to close the deal in early October.

Markelle Fultz's story mirrors Michael Jordan's, but new chapter awaits

Markelle Fultz's story mirrors Michael Jordan's, but new chapter awaits

CAMDEN, N.J. — The myth took flight as the man once did himself: Michael Jordan was cut from his high school team.

The truth was more complicated, more nuanced, but that stood little chance against the legend: Michael Jordan was cut? How does that happen?

Jordan did nothing to correct the record as the years passed and his accomplishments accumulated. Rather, he used this supposed snub as fuel, powering him through what is arguably the greatest career of all time (with allowances for Wilt, LeBron and a few others).

So now here comes Washington point guard Markelle Fultz, taken first by the Sixers in Thursday's NBA draft (see story).

No one can say how his story might unfold. Nor is anyone suggesting that it will wind up anything like Jordan’s.

Certainly, though, one of the early chapters reads much the same way. He too was cut from his high school team. He too rose above that. He too uses that slight, if it can even be called that, as motivation.

“I always have a chip on my shoulder, no matter what,” he told reporters Wednesday, on the eve of the draft.

So the comparison to His Airness holds up in that way, at least. Anything beyond that is a stretch, though it should be pointed out that one member of ESPN’s broadcast crew, Jay Bilas, compared Fultz to James Harden on the air Thursday night, and that another, Jalen Rose, likened him to Bradley Beal.

“I definitely see myself as a superstar, as one of the best players coming into the NBA,” Fultz told reporters Wednesday. “I’m going to have to earn it, though.”

His friends have little doubt that he will.

“Every time I see him, I feel as though he gets better, so I expect him to keep getting better,” said Reggie Gardner, once his teammate DeMatha High School, in Hyattsville, Maryland. “I think the sky’s the limit for him.”

“I’m expecting him to do big things,” said another former teammate, Ahmad Clark. “He said he’s going to win Rookie of the Year. I don’t know if he can win MVP yet, but I can see him winning it down the road in his career.”

DeMatha is one of the nation’s great programs, a school that has sent players like Adrian Dantley and Victor Oladipo to the NBA (not to mention former Sixer Jerami Grant). Fultz arrived there as a 5-foot-9 freshman five years ago and was immediately consigned to the JV team. Same thing the next year — “even though,” Clark said, “he was good enough to play varsity.”

That left an indelible impression.

“He still is trying to prove himself,” Clark said. “He still feels he has to play that certain way.”

That’s a rare thing, DeMatha coach Mike Jones said, before invoking a familiar comparison.

“You can think of Michael Jordan taking every perceived slight and using it as fuel and motivation for going after his goals,” Jones said. “I think Markelle is one of those unique individuals that does the same thing: Anything that doesn’t go the way he wants to, he doesn’t pout about it. He doesn’t sit back and try to blame it on this or that. He just says, ‘You know what? I’m going to prove you wrong.’ And I think that’s a great quality to have.”

Jones was, of course, the guy who assigned Fultz to the junior varsity. He recalled there were some older kids — “and kids in his class, too,” he added – who he regarded as superior players. 

“He clearly proved me wrong,” Jones said. “I think he’s done that and then some.”

At the time, things were touch and go with Fultz. Keith Williams, who had coached and mentored him beginning at age 7 at the Run 'n Shoot Athletic Center in Forestville, Maryland — not far from Fultz’s home in Upper Marlboro — wanted him to transfer.

“I wasn’t happy,” Williams said. “I thought he was losing time in development.”

The way Williams tells it – and the way Kent Babb wrote it recently in The Washington Post — Fultz’s mom, Ebony, cast the deciding vote. She had raised Markelle and his older sister Shauntese as a single parent. She wanted her son to get a good education.

So in the end, he stayed at DeMatha.

“Obviously,” Williams said, “it all worked out.”

“My confidence and my goals never changed, no matter what,” Fultz told reporters in New York on Thursday. “(Being cut) just made me realize that it’s … a hill I have to get over, and I just started working even harder.” 

He grew seven inches to 6-4, his current height, before his junior year, then starred on a team that went 33-4 that season, and one that went 32-5 the next. He was also the shining light of a 9-22 Huskies team in 2016-17, averaging 23.2 points, 5.9 assists and 5.7 rebounds.

Rest assured that Jones “absolutely” sees the parallels to Jordan’s story, and that he’s fine with it.

“I don’t know whatever happened to that coach,” he said, “but I’m very secure in my ability to coach the game of basketball, and I will be the first one to say when I’ve made a mistake. Clearly not having Markelle on the varsity was a mistake.”

Jones has good reason to feel secure, seeing as he has won over 400 games in 15 years at DeMatha. As for Jordan’s coach all those years ago at Laney High School in Wilmington, N.C., it was one Clifton (Pop) Herring, profiled five years ago by Thomas Lake in Sports Illustrated.

Lake wrote that like Fultz, Jordan had yet to have his growth spurt as a sophomore; he stood just 5-10. Laney had two experienced guards on the varsity but needed a big man. Herring, as a result, kept 6-7 Leroy Smith instead of Jordan.

We all know what happened down the road. The title-winning shot at North Carolina. The six rings with the Bulls. But Jordan never forgot his days at Laney. As Lake wrote, Jordan invited Herring to the ceremony for his number retirement in 1995, and introduced him as “the first guy to ever cut me,” eliciting boos from the sellout crowd in the United Center.

Jordan went on to say that Herring also worked with him early every morning before the following season, but according to Lake added, “He knew he made a mistake! He just tried to correct it.”

Herring, who Lake wrote has since been wracked by mental illness, was unable to make it to Jordan’s Hall of Fame induction in 2009. But Smith was there, and Jordan sounded some of the same notes, saying that he wanted to make sure “the coach who actually picked Leroy over me … understood — you made a mistake, dude.”

The Sixers can only hope, then, that Markelle Fultz rises to a point where he is somewhere in the same stratosphere as Michael Jordan.

In another sense, they can hope that he rises above.