The Undeniably Charming Jordan Clarkson

Whenever new Cleveland Cavaliers guard Jordan Clarkson comes to town reporters flock around him. They did this again at the shoot-around the morning of March 9th at UCLA in advance of a loss to the Los Angeles Clippers where he scored 21 points in 25 minutes. The experts know something the public will soon discover once the soft-spoken Texan enters the national spotlight of the playoffs.

Jordan, age 25, has the NBA trifecta coursing through his veins. For two of his three seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers, he was mentored by Kobe Bryant. In February, he was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers with LeBron James as his new Yoda. He’s named after Michael Jordan and his heavenly dunks channel Youtube highlights of His Airness.

 Jordan Clarkson (right) with new teammate LeBron James (Photo courtesy of the Cleveland Cavaliers)

Jordan Clarkson (right) with new teammate LeBron James (Photo courtesy of the Cleveland Cavaliers)

In a Cavs team interview shortly after the trade, JC reflected, “Having LeBron and Kobe to play alongside is crazy. He (LeBron) and Kobe are the most detailed and arguably the two best players ever. My rookie year, Kobe already knew everything about me.” Despite being sidelined by a knee injury most of 2014, Kobe benefited Jordan with his basketball IQ.

Jordan’s education by Kobe is evident in his scoring efficiency. Between 2014 and Kobe’s retirement in 2016, Jordan received priceless OJT (on-the-job-training). Once Kobe departed, Jordan became the seasoned veteran at age 23 on a roster that included four “one-and-done” lottery draft picks who graduated to the NBA after their freshman year in college.

Now that he’s on a team teeming with veterans, Jordan sighs, “It’s awesome that I can learn so much after coming from a team where I was the older guy.”

But he is still young enough to be the right person at the right time. Michael Jordan was the superstar for the baby boomer generation. Kobe and LeBron belong to the Millennials. Jordan Clarkson is the basketball hero for today’s youth across the globe.

An Underdog for the Ages

Basketball talent accounts for his status in the NBA, but the intangibles are what draw people to his corner. It starts with his humility. He enters the building alone without a circle of uncouth hangers on or other pretensions. It’s just Jordan Clarkson, a likable combo guard with speed to cover more floor than two players, a college degree, and genuine regard for hoop fans everywhere.

 Clarkson playing again at the Staples Center in Los Angeles (Photo courtesy of the Cleveland Cavaliers)

Clarkson playing again at the Staples Center in Los Angeles (Photo courtesy of the Cleveland Cavaliers)

Jordan’s Filipino heritage is no secret among Cleveland teammates. “Everybody knows but they don’t make anything of it,” he says. Discretion may be prudent given the video that went viral in 2016 showing the penchant of NBA opponents to clothesline Asian American Jeremy Lin of the Brooklyn Nets.

Jordan floats above the fray thanks to his ability to relate to the developing world, including the Philippines. The United Nations reports that 1.8 billion or a quarter of the world’s population is between the ages of 10 and 24. About 90 percent of them live in least developed nations like the Philippines.

He was last featured in Positively Filipino after a trip to the Philippines, where he played basketball with kids from Manila’s barrios. As a product of humble beginnings in Florida and Texas, Jordan has a natural rapport with disadvantaged children that transcends language barriers.

 Clarkson drives against the Thunder (Photo courtesy of the Cleveland Cavaliers)

Clarkson drives against the Thunder (Photo courtesy of the Cleveland Cavaliers)

“I’m still trying to that.” By “that,” the laconic Cav means become eligible to play for the Philippines National Team possibly in time to compete against his NBA peers in the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics. If the USA plays the Philippines, rich and poor nations will be watching a classic David vs. Goliath battle with David representing the hopes and dreams of the Third World. And after four years of President Donald Trump, it won’t be unpatriotic to root for the Philippines.

The basketball court battle between the haves and have-nots is at least two years away. With only one calendar page torn since he moved to Cleveland, his first priority is to find a more permanent living arrangement than a hotel room. Once he’s settled, Jordan expects to connect with the tiny community of Filipinos in Cleveland. “I’ve only been here a month so I haven’t gotten my house set up yet, but it’s going to happen soon.”

He’s also overdue for a visit to the Philippines. “Hopefully I can make it there soon. It depends on where the season ends up this year and how much time I can take off.”

Playing for a team in the playoff hunt mitigates the agony of a shortened offseason. When he does make it to the Philippines again he expects to “work a lot and try to get around Manila.” He’ll be working even harder if the Cavs reach the finals again and can stretch the Warriors to seven games.

Win or lose, even if Jordan denies being a role model, he is.


 Anthony Maddela

Anthony Maddela

Anthony Maddela works for the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles in the Watts projects. He is writing a novel and hopes the Supersonics return to Seattle.