The first two episodes of ESPN's 'The Last Dance' documentary featured deep dives into Michael Jordan's backstory from his childhood to his high school days on through his emergence as a star at the Unversity of North Carolina.
Those parts stood out to former NBA players Tony Massenburg and Drew Gooden, who helped recap the first night of the documentary on a recent episode of the 'Wizards Talk' podcast. It got both of them thinking about the first time they encountered Jordan.
For Massenburg, it goes back long before most people knew who Jordan was. Massenburg was a 15-year-old high school student when his coach packed the basketball team in a van and drove them to Chapel Hill to watch a UNC Tar Heels practice. Dean Smith was North Carolina's coach at the time and Jordan was just starting his college career.
"So, we see a freshman named Mike Jordan who was just literally dominating. We were all sitting there like this kid is a freshman and he was one of the best players on the team. We were in awe of guys like Sam Perkins and James Worthy," Massenburg recalled.
"We just happened to be there the day Michael Jordan broke his hand in practice as a freshman. I never thought that I would be sitting somewhere all these days talking about how relevant that was. Because at the time, we were just like 'wow he's really good.' ... To think of what he would go on to be and to think I was in the house to see that and [later] play against him, it's just crazy how things work sometimes."
Gooden first saw Jordan in person in the early 2000s when he was invited as a star college player at the University of Kansas to be a counselor at Jordan's camp. Gooden was part of a group of top college players at the time that got an invite along with Kansas teammate Kirk Hinrich, Jason Williams and Mike Dunleavy of Duke and Steve Blake of Maryland.
Gooden remembers being there three days and Jordan not attending the first two. It had him wondering if he would see him at all.
"I remember refereeing the game and all of a sudden people stop. The ball stopped bouncing. We had five games going on five different courts. I hear a standing ovation, everyone's clapping. I turn around and here comes Michael walking through the gym. I'm like 'oh my god, that is him in the flesh.' This is the first time I'm actually seeing Michael Jordan," Gooden said.
"So, he's coming closer and closer. The games kind of start going back together and I'm refereeing. I get back to my game and he's walking closer and closer to my court. I turned my back because I'm shy when I see famous people. I'm kind of starstruck. I turn my back to M.J. and then he walked past me... and he said 'what's up, Drew?' The first thing I thought was 'he knows me, he knows me!' I didn't know how to respond, so I said 'hi, Michael Jordan.' I didn't know if I was supposed to call him Air Jordan, Mr. M.J. I just said 'hey, Michael Jordan.'"
"Like a little kid," Massenburg replied.
"That was my first time seeing the unicorn," Gooden said.
Massenburg and Gooden shared many more takeaways from the first two episodes of the documentary along with NBC Sports Washington's Chris Miller and Quinton Mayo. You can listen to the full podcast right here.
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