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Although the sporting world is filled with stories about children playing the same game as their famous parents, Jeff Jordan’s career must surely rank as one of the more surreal. Few players have captivated audiences the way his father did during his 13 seasons with the Chicago Bulls (six championships, five MVP awards, and 14 all-star appearances, not to mention cultural phenomena like Air Jordans, baggy shorts, the movie Space Jam, and the heyday of the NBA). Simply put, Michael Jordan easily ranks with sports legends like Babe Ruth, Cy Young, Muhammad Ali, Walter Payton, and Bobby Hull.
“If you look at all the kids who have grown up with famous athletes for fathers, I’d say Jeff’s experience is probably the most intense of all,” says Jarrett Payton, son of the late Chicago Bears running back, and a Tennessee Titans draft pick.
Brett Hull, son of Chicago Blackhawks icon Bobby Hull, describes his own childhood playing hockey in Canada as a “nightmare"-and that was 30 or so years ago, before athletes attracted as much attention as they do today. Says ESPN basketball analyst Jon Barry, an NBA vet and the son of Hall of Famer Rick Barry: “[Jeff] is the son of the single greatest player to play the game of basketball. How can you measure up to that?”
The young Jordan, who fell in love with basketball as a toddler, acknowledges “the pressure of the name.” But by the time The Circus surrounded him, Jordan says, he was enjoying the game too much to stop playing. “It was always still fun,” he says. “No matter how much I thought about other things, and how much pressure there was, it was always fun.”
His father tried to make sure it stayed that way. “We let our children be kids,” Michael Jordan says. “Basketball isn’t something to be feared, no matter who I am. I knew it would put pressure on him, but that doesn’t mean he shouldn’t enjoy himself and do things he wants to do.”
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