ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — The short time at Central Florida for Michael Jordan’s two sons has often been more hoopla than hoops.
There was the shoe controversy, the Twitter post and the Vegas video. Small miscues for anyone else, maybe. But when you’re Air Jordan’s sons, nothing is small.
“Everybody’s watching,” sophomore guard Marcus Jordan said. “I’ve known that for years and years. But I didn’t really see how high it was, that everybody’s really watching all the time, until this summer. But now I know.”
All it took was a push of a button for a reminder.
Marcus was in Las Vegas in August for his dad’s fantasy basketball camp with his brother, Jeff, and teammate A.J. Rompza. One day, Marcus bragged on Twitter about spending $50,000 on the Las Vegas Strip, including at Haze nightclub at Aria Resort & Casino. Later, a video posted by Jeff shows all three players hanging out at the Liquid Pool Lounge, the resort’s adults-only pool.
Probably not a smart idea when Marcus is underage.
The posts went viral and were enough for The Nevada Gaming Control Board to launch an investigation into MGM Resorts International. The control board’s findings were not made public, and the Jordans wouldn’t discuss specific details at the team’s media day Thursday.
New coach Donnie Jones, however, said he spoke with the Jordan brothers about making smarter decisions. The Jordans also apologized to teammates for causing distractions.
“It would be like you or I saying to everybody I just spent $100 at McDonald’s. Why share that?” Jones said. “And with them, the spotlight is always going to be there.”
Maybe now more so than ever.
Jeff transferred from Illinois this summer, turning brothers into teammates for the first time since Marcus was a sophomore in high school. Jeff will have to sit out this season because of NCAA transfer rules and will have one year of eligibility left next season.
Already, life is different.
Not too many athletes get a chance to play alongside their sibling at the college level. Then again, not too many are in dorm rooms playing video games that have their father on the cover. Or have a dad who’s the majority owner of an NBA team, the Charlotte Bobcats, which just so happened to be in town Thursday night against the Orlando Magic on UCF’s media day.
That shadow tends to follow them around.
Jeff, 21, has been doing regular media interviews since he was in seventh grade. Being the younger brother, Marcus watched Jeff experience the hype and the crowds and the national television audiences that swarmed because of their last name.
Their famous father even referenced the heavy expectations on his sons in his Hall of Fame speech last year when he said, “I wouldn’t want to be you guys.”
“Growing up it was tough. It was tough with the pressure. We knew what we were getting into with basketball, too,” Jeff said. “It’s gotten a little easier to deal with. It really hasn’t changed, it’s just not as much a factor to me as it used to be when I was younger.”
There wasn’t a smooth start in college for Marcus, either.
He made waves his freshman year for wearing Air Jordans — which his father made famous with Nike — and refusing to lace up the school-issued Adidas shoes. UCF maintained that it had approval from Adidas during Marcus’ recruitment, but Adidas chose not to renew the school’s contract. Nike now provides the athletic apparel.
Through it all, UCF athletic director Keith Tribble said the Jordans’ impact has been far more positive than negative.
“When we had Marcus last year, it really put UCF and our basketball program on the map,” Tribble said. “People were watching because of his father, arguably the greatest basketball player who’s ever played. And now having his brother here, Jeffrey, now people will say, ‘Well it’s good for Marcus, they must be doing something right. And now you’ve got the second brother here, then it really must be good.’”
Only time will tell.
Jeff, a seldom-used reserve as a walk-on at Illinois, said he left the school because UCF provides a better opportunity. He also is a non-scholarship player for the Knights and will continue studying psychology at UCF.
Marcus played in all 32 games, starting 18, as a freshman. He averaged eight points and three rebounds per game, came on strong late in the season and earned Conference USA all-freshman team honors.
Being teammates will take a little getting used to.
They both have their first initial before their last name on their jerseys now, often guard each other in practices and can’t avoid running into each other on campus or at late-night hangouts.
“It feels like high school again,” Jeff said.
As for living together?
Well, they do need a little space. After growing up in the same home, Jeff didn’t really want to room together.
“Been there, done that,” Jeff said, chuckling. “There are some things you don’t want to experience again.”
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.