In a recent interview with Hall-of-Fame legend Larry Bird, David Aldridge asked a series of questions that covered various basketball topics. One segment of particular interest is when Bird marvels about how amazing players are these days. What started though as praise of Russell Westbrook however transitioned to his thoughts on DeAndre Jordan. He recalled his first impression of DJ:
When he came in here to work out the first time, I couldn’t believe the kid was even thinking about coming out. He was tall, he could run and he could jump. But basketball (skills)? Had none.
How bad was it?
I really felt sorry for the kid. I thought there’s no way in hell this kid will ever make it in this league.
Yet in the end, things changed.
I don’t know who got with him, or what he did, but to watch him play and perform on a nightly basis the way he does is just breathtaking to me. After everything I’ve seen, I always go back to that. It’s pretty amazing. And this wasn’t this year; this happened five years ago. And just watching him, he was in here the other night and I thought, boy, I’m so proud of that kid. It’s amazing. I’ve never really met him other than that day he was in here. But just watching kids like that come in, and here I’m thinking they have no chance, there’s no way in hell they’ll play in this league, and to accomplish some of the things he’s done, to me, that’s worth it all. And I had nothing to do with it. I had absolutely nothing to do with it. But that’s the kick I get out of it. I mean, there’s been others, but he sticks out in my mind. I never thought he had a chance in hell, you know?
It is definitely impressive that of all the players that Larry Bird has witnessed, DeAndre Jordan stuck out to him as perhaps the most impressive display of improvement and success in the Association. There have been plenty of notable players in the Association that have overcome the odds to have successful careers. Draymond Green was drafted in the exact slot that DeAndre Jordan was - 35th overall, in the second round. Ben Wallace actually went completely undrafted.
Yet, that is not to say that DeAndre Jordan has not defied a long streak of odds. After being selected in the second round (35th overall) in 2008, Jordan has evolved into one of the brightest stars in the NBA and arguably its current best defensive center. Last year DJ was awarded first-team All-NBA and first-team All-Defensive player (a distinction only duplicated by Kawhi Leonard). All this came after Jordan put up pedestrian numbers in college (at Texas A&M) by averaging 7.9 points and 6.0 rebounds a game. His first few years in the NBA (under Vinny Del Negro) were not much better either. But DJ persisted and with the addition of Doc Rivers as his coach, Jordan has finally blossomed into the third star that makes up the Clippers’ triumvirate. So while Chris Paul and Blake Griffin may very well deserve the spotlight more often, one cannot ignore the success and rarity that DeAndre Jordan represents.