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Slapped With Stinging Rejection, Michael Jordan’s Stardom Once Failed to Sway 27YO Knicks Star With Kind Gesture

Published 09/26/2023, 8:30 AM EDT

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Turn down an autograph from Michael Jordan? Unthinkable! But what did one future NBA pro know when he was a child? His Airness caught flak for refusing to sign autographs for kids recently. But he once voluntarily offered his signature. The child who turned him down had a powerful reason to do so. He knew NBA jerseys are very valuable and should not suffer a single blemish.

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No one told this kid that authentic autographs increase the value of jerseys. Years later when he’s suiting up for the NBA himself, this kid is kicking himself for turning down the GOAT.

Future NBA star didn’t recognize Michael Jordan


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ESPN’s Ohm Youngmisuk was on NBA Today to reveal a Michael Jordan-centric anecdote about Jalen Brunson. This story is corroborated by the current New York Knicks pro and his dad. Diehard fans would know that Brunson’s initiation into NBA came with his dad, Rick Brunson. The former player once tried to use his connection to get his son the best fan experience ever.

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Youngmisuk was penning a piece on modern NBA players’ introduction to Jordan in 2020. The Brunson father and son would recall an incident around 2001. Jalen’s first encounter with Black Jesus would make everyone shake their heads.


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When Jalen Brunson was born in 1996, Michael Jordan was at the start of his second three-peat. Jordan had moved to the Washington Wizards in 2001 till 2003. Around that time, Rick Brunson had a short stint with the Chicago Bulls and even shorter stint with the Wizards though he isn’t officially listed on the roster.

[Rick] bought a Michael Jordan jersey, a No. 23, brand-new, white jersey,” Youngmisuk said. “Rick Brunson took [Jalen] into the locker room, (and) 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 that jersey?‘”

Tragically, Jalen didn’t recognize MJ and didn’t know he’s holding his jersey. So he told the six-time NBA champion, “No, you’ll ruin the jersey.” As Youngmisuk threw this line out, the NBA Today hosts howled in amusement.

The New Jersey native would enter the NBA 17 years later with the Dallas Mavericks. Since 2022, he’s been with the Knicks and his dad is also an assistant coach on the franchise. Now he’s the one signing jerseys and giving kids autographs.


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Jalen Brunson’s huge Michael Jordan regret

Brunson must’ve scarred His Airness because the legend has had more stories of turning down autographs than giving them. MLB star, Jazz Chisholm is in the Jordan Family now but when he met MJ as a kid, his request was rejected.

Jalen has not received redemption though. His dad was an assistant coach for the Charlotte Hornets during Michael Jordan’s tenure but it doesn’t look like anything materialized then.


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As Youngmisuk said, the regret still remains. “Obviously, to this day, he still regrets that, but yes, he did turn down the GOAT.” If only Jalen Brunson had a time machine.

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Written by:

Caroline John


One take at a time

Caroline John is an NBA writer at EssentiallySports. She has been covering athletes outside the sports arena since the start of her reporting career. A writer at heart, she graduated with a degree in journalism from a reputed university.
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Edited by:

Caroline Joseph