Michael Jordan wanted to sign 5-year-old Jalen Brunson’s jersey. Here’s the hilarious reason he got snubbed.
Apparently, Brunson preferred a pristine jersey over a bit of NBA history.
Sometimes, kids don’t know how good they have it. That can especially be the case when it’s the kid of a famous athlete, who often don’t know just how close they come to greatness on a day in and day out basis.
And occasionally, that brush with greatness isn’t just any old player — it’s the greatest of all time.
There are plenty of arguments still raging on who basketball’s G.O.A.T. is, Michael Jordan or LeBron James. Where you fall on that debate likely depends on your age. After all, some kids might not even know who Jordan is — or certainly didn’t understand the extend of his legendary status until “The Last Dance” came out a few summers ago.
But back in 2001, before James ever graced the cover of Sports Illustrated as a teen, there were few who would argue against Jordan as the best to ever play the game, especially at his position.
Enter former Villanova star and current Knicks guard Jalen Brunson, who is the son of former NBA player Rick Brunson. The elder Brunson never played with Jordan — and the younger, 27, was born just a handful of years before his career ended, and wasn’t yet 2 when Jordan won his final championship in 1998.
According to a story told on NBA Today on ESPN on Tuesday, Jalen Brunson used to wear jerseys of his dad’s opponents when he went to games. One night, Brunson wore a No. 23 Wizards jersey — Jordan was in his Washington era at the time — and because his dad was on the opposing team and knew players from around the league as a veteran journeyman, he got to visit the Wizards locker room. That’s where he was first greeted by another Hall of Famer, Patrick Ewing, who offered to help get that fresh white Jordan jersey autographed by the man himself.
Brunson, however, wasn’t having any of it.
“During the pandemic when Jordan came out with a 30 for 30, I had an assignment to do: How do young players today know who Michael Jordan is? And I talked to Rick Brunson, and Rick Brunson told me this story about Jalen Brunson — and Jalen confirmed it — that when Jalen used to go watch his dad play, he would always wear a jersey of that team,” Ohm Youngmisuk said on NBA Today. “Rick Brunson played on a lot of teams, Malika, but at this time he was playing with the Wizards. So he bought a Michael Jordan jersey, a No. 23 brand new white jersey.
“Rick Brunson took him into the locker room. Introduced him to Patrick Ewing and Patrick Ewing said, ‘Hey, do you want Michael Jordan to autograph that jersey?’ Michael comes over and says, ‘Do you want me to autograph the jersey?’ Jalen Brunson doesn’t know who Michael Jordan is and said, ‘No, you’ll ruin the jersey.’ So obviously to this day he still regrets that, but, yes, he did turn down the G.O.A.T. and say, ‘I don’t want you to ruin this jersey.’”
[NOTE: Rick Brunson did not play for the Wizards, so this story likely refers to a game against the Wizards.]
Even if Jalen Brunson was the biggest young basketball fan out there, his most prominent and recent memories of Jordan at the time were of him playing for the Wizards. So should we fault a 5-year-old Brunson for not knowing just who Jordan was? Perhaps not — but that’s not going to help him get that elusive autograph.