CHICAGO— On a tip given by former PBA import and current New Orleans Pelicans GM Dell Demps, I went to cover the NBA draft combine last May 2014, my eyes fiercely focused on a young kid from Texas.
He stood 6-foot-5, a slender 186 pounds and just 21 years young. But despite having only a couple years of college experience under his belt, he acquitted himself well, averaging a robust 15.4 points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.7 assists per in 93 collegiate games at the universities of Tulsa and Missouri.
Jordan Clarkson was a joy to watch, quick as a pickpocket and a blur on the open court. And while he didn't exactly light the Attack Athletics private gym on fire with his shooting, he showed enough smarts and moxie to convince the Los Angeles Lakers to take him at 46th overall in the second round of the draft a month later.
After his workout, Jordan graciously granted me an interview. He spoke about his Filipino mother Annette and his fondness for adobo and pancit. He said his dad Mike taught him the values of hard work, lovingly pushing him to reach his potential and constantly preaching life lessons, which explains why father and son are as tight as yoga pants.
Since that initial encounter, I have interviewed Jordan a few more times - at the United Center in Chicago, the Staples Center in Los Angeles and at the Palace of Auburn Hills in Detroit. In each of those occasions, he was always welcoming.
Now entering his third NBA season, Jordan is quietly blossoming into a star.
He averaged a solid 14 points, 3.7 rebounds and 2.9 assists through his first 138 regular season games. His playing time has increased from 25 minutes per game as a rookie to 32.3 in his sophomore campaign. He swished 111 triples last season, 73 more than the previous season, a feat that bumped his 3-point accuracy to a nifty 34.7 percent.
Jordan collected $507,336 as a rookie and was paid $845,059 last year. But thanks to a four-year $50 million contract extension he signed this past July, the now 24-year old all-purpose guard will earn a lucrative $12.5 million in the upcoming 2016-17 season.
"I'm excited for this year, about the new coaching staff, about the new guys," Jordan told SPIN.ph correspondent Juvie Cabigon and PhilBoxing.com contributor DonDon Hontiveros at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas where the Lakers had a recent preseason scrap against the Sacramento Kings.
Asked about his sharpened 3-point shooting, a destructive weapon in today's NBA, Jordan replied, "Coach wants us to take those kind of shots. If you have it, take it, and I knew I was going to have opportunities to take those shots so I really worked a lot in the off-season."
Before giving my writers a bro hug, Jordan promised one thing: he'll be back in the Philippines "next summer once the season is over."
Nobody is happier for Jordan than his dad Mike, an Air Force man who valiantly battled cancer." As a parent it's a blessing to witness the investment of time, effort and resources culminate in the success of your children. With so many distractions in today's society, seeing your children become successful and to know they will be productive members of society is quite humbling," Mike said via email.
A huge NBA contract, like the weight of unconfessed sin, can be a terrible burden. After, all fat dollars bring fat expectations,
But that isn't a concern for Jordan, said the elder Clarkson.
"Jordan plays for the 'love of the game.' As of now he doesn't seem to be burdened by any growing expectations basically because of his ability to keep things in perspective. He is reminded frequently that God is in control and for those to which much is given, much is expected in return."
The NBA landscape is littered with the carcasses of former players who burned their fortunes like water through their fingers. Former Miami Heat forward Antoine Walker, for instance, filed for bankruptcy in 2010, two years after retiring from the NBA where he made $108 million, according to CNN Money.
Jordan is unlikely to suffer that fate.
"As a young adult, finances and consequences are our weakest points," Mike said. "Fastidiously, we've built a team of proven professionals to safeguard Jordan through his career and beyond However, as parents, his finances are monitored daily every expenditure is reviewed and we never place total trust in any entity.
"Prior to the draft, Jordan and I watched the ESPN documentary 'Broke' highlighting athletes who lived lavishly during their careers and ultimately went broke. It was quite an eye opener! Jordan was imparted with the quote 'would you prefer to live like a king during your career and a peasant afterwards or live like a prince your whole life?'"
But whether the stakes are for pennies or dollars, Jordan's passion for basketball remains the same. He will always aim to be the king of the court,
And so the journey continues.