Shooting guard Jamal Crawford of the Los Angeles Clippers is well-known due to his scoring, handles and longevity in the league.
He’d like us to recognize him for something else, as well.
“Remember when there was the Gatorade commercial of the old (Michael) Jordan coming back to play against the young Jordan? I was the young Jordan,” Crawford told Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.com.
Crawford opened up in the interview, describing his desire to win now more than anything and his background as a prep star. A teenage phenom growing up in Seattle, Crawford was averaging 25 points a game in a summer league going up against college and professional players.
“He changed the face of high school basketball in the state of Washington,” Crawford’s high school coach, Mike Bethea, told ESPN. “There was just something special about Jamal when he was playing. Wherever he played, the gyms were packed. Everybody heard about him and wanted to come out and watch. There’s not a kid who comes through Seattle now who doesn’t try and have a little of Jamal’s flair in their game.”
Now 34 and a 14-year NBA veteran, Crawford has settled into his role as a sixth man despite his original plan as a starter in the league. The move has been one that’s suited him tremendously, as Crawford could be on his way to a second Sixth Man of the Year award.
His numbers from that 2009-10 season when he took home the prize are very similar to the one’s he’s posting this season. Crawford is putting together 18.6 points, 2.3 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 2.4 3-pointers this year in his 66 games. In 2009-10, he averaged 18.0 points, 2.5 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 2.1 3-pointers per contest with the Atlanta Hawks.
The sixth man role was something he fell into with the Hawks, even though Crawford was a starter for the majority of his previous seven seasons. Despite his hesitation about the new role, he knew it would be best for a team that featured an established star like Joe Johnson at shooting guard.
“Growing up, it wasn’t like I wanted to be a sixth man,” Crawford told ESPN. “It only happened because I got to this point where I just wanted to win more than anything. When you bring one of your top scorers, your top players off the bench, it really gives your team balance.”
So how did the whole Jordan comparison come about?
Crawford was originally drafted back in 2000 by the Cleveland Cavaliers but was traded the same day to the Chicago Bulls. In his four seasons with the Bulls, Crawford got to hang out with Jordan himself, even playing games against MJ at his house.
Was Crawford worthy of the “young Jordan” title?
Maybe, but it’s his work with the 56-21 Clippers that’s especially impressive.
-All stats via basketball-reference.com unless otherwise noted.