NBA players having youth camps are relatively common now. The player often works with a former high school or college coach to bring in youth and teach them the game. Different camps have different levels, from ones aimed at anyone who wants to come and play to those targeting youth who look like future high school or college players.
Often the highlight of the camp is a chance to meet, shake hands with, and get a picture with the player or coach. (In my case, I still have the picture of 10-year-old me with John Wooden from his camp.)
Michael Jordan had one of those camps, and a young Russell Westbrook attended — and then blew off getting his picture with Jordan. Westbrook was on the stay-at-home edition of The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon here on NBC and told the story.
“So I was, I would say, Jimmy, like 10 or 11 and I went to the Michael Jordan camp, my parents sent me to the Michael Jordan camp up in Santa Barbara. Usually at the end of the camp every kid, every team, you could bring something for Michael Jordan to sign, you had to stand in line and be ready to go.
“So when my team was up, my parents gave me a basketball to get signed, I don’t know what I was thinking [laughs]. When it was time I was in the middle of a game, I was playing pickup with other kids. My coach was like, ‘Come on, come on, come on. You’re gonna miss the opportunity to get a picture with Michael Jordan and an autograph with Michael Jordan.’ Myself said, ‘Ahh, don’t worry, I’m okay, I don’t need it right now.’
“So I didn’t get a picture with Michael Jordan, I didn’t get an autograph with Michael Jordan. I literally didn’t get in line. I kept playing basketball, just kept hooping, just kept hooping. Then when camp was over, when I got home, my mom and dad was like, ‘Did you get the ball signed?’ And I literally was just like, ‘No, I didn’t. I was playing a pickup game.'”
It turns out that legendary Russell Westbrook focus is nothing new.
Westbrook is now a Jordan Brand player, having long had a contract with the company and a signature shoe line. He more than got to make up for that day he blew off meeting MJ as a kid.