Posted: Friday November 10, 2006 5:55PM; Updated: Friday November 10, 2006 6:45PM
"This is my ideal place," third-year guard Ben Gordon said of playing in Chicago.
Last week I interviewed Ben Gordon for SI Players' First Person. The 23-year-old shooting guard from Mount Vernon, N.Y., is in his third season with the Chicago Bulls and entered the weekend averaging 14.8 points a game. Here are additional excerpts from our conversation:
On his introduction to Michael Jordan:
When I first got here, his wife, Juanita, was a realtor. It just so happened there was a function somewhere. One of my agents, Lou Tucker, met his wife and got her information. When it was time for me to look for a house out here, she helped me find my spot. That summer, I met Michael one day at Hoops Gym because all the pros from Chicago and stuff go down there to play. He came down to watch and I met him there. It surprised me because he came up to me and said, 'Hey, what's up BG?' And then we started talking about how his wife was helping out with the place. You know Mike; he's a guy who watches sports so he knew who I was from college. With me coming to the Bulls and his wife helping me with the house, he just really made me feel welcome the way he came over and said hello to me.
"The relationship has grown from there. Every time I see him, I can go to him and chill and talk to him. Still, as you know, Mike is a busy guy. I'm not just going to pick up the phone and call him if it's not something serious. But they've invited me over to the house for barbecues and things like that. He's a very down-to-earth person. He just extends his hand to some of the younger guys around the league. It's great when you can be around somebody who's done so much for the game, just seeing him as a regular guy."
On the best part about not being a rookie anymore:
"The doldrum jobs, like picking up donuts or carrying the bags. But I can honestly say I didn't have it as bad as other rookies because we had, like, six rookies, so the burden was divided."
On whether he has a built-in inferior complex after growing up in Mt. Vernon, where Denzel Washington, Dick Clark and P. Diddy, among other celebrities, are from:
"You know what? I don't think I could suffer from an inferiority complex just because the guys you just named came out way before me. I'm just carrying the torch for everybody in Mt. Vernon. We're all pretty much doing something different. We've got actors, musicians, athletes -- we're all, within our respective fields, on the same pedestal."
On growing up a Bulls fan:
"Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen -- it was hard not to love those guys. They had the most televised games, so I was constantly seeing them. And they always won. As a kid, everybody was a Michael Jordan fan. Everybody wore his shoes. They had Ewings, but I liked how the Jordans looked better."
On being drafted by the Bulls:
"I'm a guy who looks at the significance of numbers a lot. Before the draft, I had no idea I'd get drafted third. I thought I was going to go anywhere from seventh to 12th. As we started getting closer and I started to get an inkling that the Bulls could be a team that I could end up playing for, I started to look at the numbers. On draft night, people were saying 20 years ago this day, Michael Jordan was drafted by the Bulls and he was the third pick just like you. So I'm like, wow. It was all weird. But I wouldn't want to play anywhere else in the world right now. Now that I've been out here, I love the city of Chicago, and I'm not far away from home. This is my ideal place."
On why he wears No. 7:
"I wore No. 4 my whole career but, of course, Jerry Sloan already had that number beforehand [it has been since retired by the organization] so there wasn't much I could do about it. So all I did was just [put together] being the third pick with my old No. 4. That's why I wear No. 7."
On being the 2005 Sixth Man Award winner but losing Rookie of the Year to college teammate Emeka Okafor:
"We were both happy for each other, even though I was trying to get both of those awards. There was a small moment where I was a little salty, but I was happy for him. It worked out for the best because we just made history being two guys from UConn who, in their first years, came away with prestigious awards in the NBA."