Jordan Appreciative As High School Jersey Gets Retired
HOUSTON – Traverse through his many tattoos, past the Houston Astros star tatted across his right shoulder, past the meaningful cross with the names of his mother and three younger brothers emblazoned on his left shoulder, as well as the many tattoos etched across his torso, and head down his left leg to reach one of DeAndre Jordan’s favorite sections of ink.
A sleeve behind his leg depicts the house and neighborhood where Jordan grew up outside of Houston, a Tupac lyric from the song “Dear Mama” and a picture of his mother’s face. The Houston area will always be a permanent home to Jordan, both on his body and in his mind.
“It’s my roots,” Jordan said. “It’s where I grew. All of my family’s from here; my family’s still here. I was a kid growing up in Houston, didn’t have a lot – three younger brothers, a single mom. It was tough.”
But Jordan made it out of the city’s Third Ward, and has long been admired by his former high school coach at Christian Life Center Academy for his ability to constantly bounce back from any circumstance.
Now, Jordan will forever be a part of the high school that helped him reach his dreams along his journey.
Before facing his hometown Rockets on Friday, Jordan’s No. 12 high school jersey was retired Thursday at Christian Life Center Academy, where he dismantled his competition his senior year after transferring from Episcopal High School, averaging 26.1 points, 15.2 rebounds and 8.1 blocks per game.
“From that point on, Christian Life Center became Christian Life Center,” said Carlos Wilson, Jordan’s former high school coach. “We’ve been blessed with 30 Division-I players, a couple other professional athletes, but it all started with DeAndre.”
And everyone who meant the most to Jordan – his close family and friends and his Clippers teammates –all came out to show their support for the occasion.
“I didn’t know I was liked like this,” Jordan said. “My teammates and my coaches and the staff…everybody involved in the Clippers organization came out. I thought that was amazing.
“It’s cool to see. People can talk about how much they care about you, but the small things like this, people taking time out of their day to come and support, it’s amazing.”
The last time Jordan was flanked by Clippers teammates in a crowded room outside of Houston, there were contract decisions and an NBA future on the line – complete with plenty of emojis – as he mulled where to sign two years ago.
This time, there was no stress. There was no concern or uneasiness. It was all positivity, honoring his path from high school to college to the NBA, and how he helped put Christian Life Center on the map.
“I didn’t really think of it like that,” Jordan said, despite hearing it multiple times Thursday night. “When I was here, I was just being DeAndre.”
Admittedly, according to CLCA Pastor Richard Rodriguez, who emceed the event, “just being DeAndre” entailed many things.
Rodriguez talked about Jordan’s many successes, as well as a few lighthearted stories of the budding star getting into trouble, including one time he tried to sneak out of a Chinese buffet. The good times, however, far outweighed the bad.
And, as Wilson recalled, that’s by no accident.
“What separated him from the others was his work ethic,” Wilson said. “He’s a classic story of when work ethic and God-given ability and talent meet.”
Every day, Wilson recalled, Jordan would work out on the South Side before school started at the other end of town, then go to class, practice and work out again.
Wilson believes it’s Jordan’s work ethic which has allowed him to bounce back through all the adverse times in his life. When Jordan was upset about not making the roster for the McDonald’s All-American Game, he worked to be one of the nation’s top 10 recruits.
When Jordan dropped to the second round of the NBA Draft, he worked not just to stick in the league, but to start. And when being a starter wasn’t good enough, he worked to become one of the NBA’s top centers.
“When things don’t go well,” Wilson said to Jordan, “you keep coming.”
In doing that, Jordan received plenty of help from his current head coach, Doc Rivers, along the way.
Rivers always knew Jordan had more in him, and he helped bring it out. Jordan’s averaged a double-double with the Clippers each of his four seasons with Rivers as head coach, after never doing it previously.
It made sense, then, that Rivers was among the many Clippers’ representatives showing their support at the ceremony, which came just a couple weeks after the Clippers traveled to Winter Park, Fla., before their game in Orlando to support Austin Rivers’ high school jersey retirement.
Doc said any time a player receives an honor back in his hometown, it’s particularly special. With Jordan’s family and friends sitting alongside his current Clippers teammates, it felt more like home to him than ever.
“This place molded me into the man I am today,” Jordan said.
And so he tries to live by those words inscribed on his left leg: There’s no way I can pay you back. But the plan is to show you that I understand, you are appreciated.
Mostly, the Tupac lyrics are for his mother. But they apply, too, for the people in the city he grew up in.
Before every game, Jordan tweets, “#35 @TobiOye” in remembrance of his late friend, Bellaire native Tobi Oyedeji, who died in a car accident six years ago. For years, in honor of Tobi’s No. 35 jersey, Jordan also hosts 35 kids from the Third Ward area to watch the game when the Clippers play in Houston.
Friday was no different, with the kids lining up courtside to watch the Clippers workout pregame.
And after years of showing his mother and his city what it means to be appreciated, Thursday was all about his hometown showing how much they appreciate him back.
“I’m really honored to be in this position,” Jordan said.