This Is How They Do It: Ex-Roommates Doug Christie, Montell Jordan Remain Lifelong Friends

The friendship between the Kings player-turned-coach and the Grammy-nominated musician, which began on the campus of Pepperdine University over 30 years ago, has withstood the test of time.
by Alex Kramers

It didn’t take long for the two freshmen with different dreams, in the days they shot hoops in the gym and nights they shot the breeze in their dorm rooms, to become inseparable friends.

Doug Christie arrived at Pepperdine University, a small private school tucked away in the Santa Monica Mountain foothills, on a basketball scholarship, and parlayed his three seasons as the team’s leading scorer and nation’s top defender into a 15-season NBA career.

Montell Jordan, nearly a decade before releasing his first chart-topping single, “This Is How We Do It,” matriculated at Pepperdine to challenge himself academically and experience diversity. But despite standing 6-foot-8 — two inches taller than Christie — and sharing a surname with the NBA’s G.O.A.T., the Grammy-nominated musician had no disillusions about his own basketball future.

“I can’t really play basketball at all,” Jordan said with a chuckle. “I was athletic, but I was athletic too late in my life. By the time I got to Pepperdine and wanted to try and play sports, you had guys like Doug and some other players who were just so phenomenal at it, that the closest I could get to [being on the team] was by being a basketball manager.”

“He’s a big fella,” Christie quipped, “but he’s not as smooth on the basketball court as he is with the microphone though.”

So Jordan played intramural hoops and in between classes, worked at The Cage, a fitness facility housing free weights and strength training equipment at Pepperdine. When the basketball team practiced, he retrieved rebounds and wiped sweat off the floors, and after games, he was in charge of collecting scattered uniforms, dirty towels and water bottles.

That set the stage for an uncomfortable introduction for the soon-to-be best friends.

“That’s how me and Doug met,” Jordan said. “I washed Doug Christie’s drawers and jockstraps for the Pepperdine Waves.”

That awkward encounter aside, the pair soon bonded over meals in the cafeteria and De La Soul tracks booming through the speakers in their dorm rooms. Before many games, they’d share laughs while Jordan cut Christie’s hair in an impromptu barber chair set up in the locker room, using a women’s razor to achieve a perfect fade.

They grew even closer on weekend road trips with their basketball teammates, traveling to neighboring campuses in Southern California — and occasionally jettisoning as far north as Christie’s hometown Seattle — for fraternity parties.

“We had some really, really great times together as students and as friends,” Jordan said. “We would pile up in the car and roll out to USC or up to Cal Berkeley, just to go to different cities to party or to be able to experience what else was out there outside of Pepperdine.”

By their junior year, Christie and Jordan moved into an on-campus, two-bedroom apartment, furnished with little glitz or glamour besides sporadic Michael Jordan posters hanging on the walls.

Whenever they were together, the parties were just as memorable, but as their respective passions and careers began to take off, the roommates found themselves moving in different spheres.

Christie’s life revolved around the basketball schedule and its training demands, so if he wasn’t lifting weights or running drills in the gym, he was likely outside of the Malibu zip code for road games.

Around the same time, Jordan, no longer assisting the basketball team, was discovering himself as an artist. Inside his bedroom, he jotted down song ideas and invited friends to craft beats on a keyboard, his sights on breaking through in the music industry with a part-rap, part-R&B demo tape.

“We didn’t have any money, so Montell would hang sheets all over the place to drown out the noise,” Christie said. “He’d be in there singing and crooning constantly. There were so many days and nights where I’d come home and he would be in there doing his thing. You never know where it’s going to lead you, but with his gospel background, he was always going to be singing something. The fact that he made one of the greatest smashes of all time is just next level.”

Soon after graduation, Christie entered the NBA as a first-round draft pick, and during his Lakers tenure, invited Jordan to attend games at the Great Western Forum. Whenever their paths would cross in other cities, Jordan knew there would be tickets waiting for him at will call.

Once Jordan soared to the top of Billboard charts with his bouncy first single, he repaid the favor by providing front-row concert tickets and backstage passes for his longtime pal.

“When I first got into the league, he [performed] at Lollapalooza and I went,” Christie said. “My daughter was just born. I had some money in my pocket, so I [asked Montell], ‘Can you sign this $100 bill for me?’ He signed it and made it out to Chantel. I still have it; my wife has it some place at the house. We need to frame it.”

Over the following two decades — as Christie progressed from basketball player to broadcaster to coach, and Jordan followed the success of “This Is How We Do It” with multiple gold-certified albums and tours across the globe — they cheered for and delighted in each other’s accomplishments from afar.

“The beautiful part of it is that even after the NBA contracts and [record label] agreements, we were able to maintain our friendship,” Jordan said. “It’s a friendship that went beyond college life and it went on to be something that even now, 20 years afterward, we’re still connected.”

Their day-to-day communication hasn’t been as routine as it once was, but they’ve never been more than a phone call or text message apart, reaching out to one another to offer constant support or a shoulder to cry on when it's needed most.

“When my mom passed away, one of the people who actually texted me and contacted me was Montell,” Christie said. “I always appreciated that.”

Whenever they reunite and reminisce in person — as they did at the Kings home-opener, where Jordan performed the national anthem and sang his greatest hits at halftime — they’re momentarily transported back to the late-1980s, Christie says, to when they first met as teenagers at Pepperdine.

“[Our relationship] is not something where we’re going to be talking all the time, but I know that’s my partner,” Christie said. “I appreciate him and he knows that I’m always here for him.”

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