Wednesday, September 9th, 2009 at 2:16 pm  |  72 responses

Guarding MJ and LeBron

Casey’s déjà vu experience while checking His Airness and His Highness.

by Casey Jacobsen

This is the story of the first time I met Michael Jordan and LeBron James. I didn’t meet them both on the same day, but the stories of my first encounters with these two basketball idols are eerily similar.

Just like every kid who ever picked up a basketball in the 1980s, I was obsessed with Michael Jordan. According to me, he was already the greatest player of all time and he hadn’t even won his first championship with the Bulls yet. I would practice for hours in my backyard in suburban Los Angeles pretending I was MJ. Who didn’t? I dreamed of the day I would meet him. Maybe I could get his autograph. Maybe I’d even get to talk to him. Not in my wildest dreams would I have imagined that the first time I would ever meet Michael Jordan was the same day I got to play basketball against him.

It was during the summer of 2000… After completing my freshman year at Stanford University, I was invited to be a coach/counselor at the Michael Jordan Flight School in Santa Barbara. Of course, I accepted. I could have been invited to the Michael Jordan School of Balloon Animals and I would have gone! This annual week-long basketball camp, held at UC Santa Barbara, is for all kids ages 8-18. The counselors for the camp are mostly comprised of the best college (and the occasional high school) basketball players in the country. It is an honor to be invited, and it’s also a great basketball opportunity. Each night when all the campers go back to the dorms on campus for bed, all of the college players stay in the gym for 5-on-5 scrimmages until midnight. Even though MJ was retired from the NBA at this time, the rumors were he still would play every night with us and he’d be playing to win, as always. I was giddy about the prospect of being on the same basketball court as the G.O.A.T. I still had never met him, even though I’d be coaching at his camp throughout the day and listening to him talk to the kids. I figured I would get my chance at the late-night scrimmage.

The first night the teams were divided up, I found myself teamed up with Jason Williams (Duke), Richard Jefferson (Arizona), Michael McDonald (my teammate at Stanford), and Dermarr Johnson (Cincinnati). I thought it was a great group, until I looked across the court at what Jordan had assembled. It was his camp and he was Michael Jordan, so he hand-selected Quentin Richardson and Darius Miles (both had been selected in the NBA Draft by the Clippers a few weeks earlier), as well as Carlos Boozer (Duke). It was going to be a tough, competitive game. I had never been this fired up for a scrimmage in my whole life! I thought to myself, “This would be a story that I could tell my children about someday!”

The game was close throughout and guys were playing with mid-season intensity. Richard Jefferson volunteered to be the man to defend MJ and even though Jordan was scoring, he was doing a decent job of making him work hard. On one possession toward the end of the game, Jefferson drove hard to the basket and fell down trying to pass to a teammate, turning the ball over. As we sprinted back on defense, I realized that MJ was running right next to me and that his defensive man (Jefferson) was trailing behind the play. I called out that I would switch and take Jordan for that possession.

Even though it was for only one play, I was guarding Michael Jordan. My next thought to myself was, “Don’t embarrass yourself in front of your idol!” MJ didn’t have the ball at the time, but I knew that it was only a matter of time before he would. He cut to the top of the key at the three-point line and received a pass from Darius Miles. This was it! My moment. It was me versus him, one-on-one. Jordan squared me up to the basket, palming the ball in one hand like he always did (he has HUGE hands). He then stopped for a second and looked at me, saying:

“You know… No white boy has ever been able to stop me before.”

I couldn’t believe it. MJ was talking trash to me! I fought off a smile and before I could muster another thought, he had taken a dribble to his left and pulled up for a jump shot. I did all I could to stay in front of him and put a hand in his face. Luckily, he missed the shot. I ran down the court asking myself if that encounter really happened. It did, and it was awesome.

Fast forward to the ’03-04 NBA regular season. I was in my second year with the Phoenix Suns. We were a young team, led by new coach Mike D’Antoni. We didn’t have Steve Nash yet (he would join us next season), but we had a lot of young talent, including Amar’e Stoudemire, Shawn Marion and Joe Johnson. We traded away Stephon Marbury about halfway through the season, and we were trying to rebuild our team identity. It was a long year and we struggled at times in the loaded Western Conference, but it was a really fun season. At least I thought it was.

During that year, the biggest story in the NBA was about the newest high school sensation, LeBron James. He lived up to the hype and was already starting to dominate at the NBA level. I was looking forward to the chance to play against him that year. It came in Cleveland, toward the later stages of the season. I was the 6th man of our team (averaging over 20 minutes per game), so I knew that there was going to be a good chance that I would see a lot of LeBron on the court that night. I also know that, even though LBJ is not my defensive assignment, at some point (just like in the scrimmage in Santa Barbara) I will have an opportunity to guard LeBron.

My opportunity came in the second quarter. After a screen and roll with my guy, I switched men with Joe Johnson, leaving me to guard LeBron on the wing right in front of the Cavalier bench. It wasn’t the same feeling as when I got to guard MJ (LeBron was still a rookie at this point), but it was still pretty cool. Everyone who saw this young man play knew that if he stayed healthy, he coulCasey Jacobsen & LeBron Jamesd be one of the best to ever play. I was well aware of his physical skills and the fact that he outweighed me by at least 25 pounds. So I backed off LeBron a couple feet. He immediately turned his back to me and started to back me down into the post area. I knew this was coming, but I also knew that my teammates would help if I got into real trouble. After the first two dribbles, I heard a voice from their bench saying:

“Take that white boy to the hole!”

I smiled when I heard that (see picture). It was funny. It also reminded me of the day I played against MJ. LeBron didn’t score on that possession either. He passed ball, like he always does when he sees help coming toward him. It’s what makes him so good. I wouldn’t have been able to stop LeBron in the post that day, or any other day, but it was fun to try.

Michael Jordan and LeBron James. Two of the best basketball players ever. These two have a lot of similarities: scoring titles, All-Star games, endorsement deals with Nike, etc. What else do they have in common?

Getting checked by a “white boy” from Glendora, CA. Well, at least that is the story I will tell my kids someday.

Casey Jacobsen is a former SLAM High School First Team All-American and NCAA First Team All-American. He currently plays for Brose Baskets in Bamberg, Germany.

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  • http://www.alllooksame.com Tarzan Cooper

    this is racist. im offended. what if some white guy went around saying, no black boy can guard me? what if white guys even used the term black boy? there would be so much controversy about it.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Myles Brown

    Great story, white boy.

  • http:///www.realcavsfans.com Anton

    @ Tarzan: double standard

  • ab_40

    tarzan did you know larry bird was offended when white players guarded him? ps it’s basketball white players are naturaly underrated untill they prove the comp otherwise. every player has to prove him or herself but white players especialy american white players get a lot of trash talked to em just for well being white and on the court.

    sorry kid

  • Ken

    Thanks for sharing Casey. I chuckled at parts of this. I’m glad he has a sense of humor about all of this.

  • Peter

    Why is it that being called a white boy on a basketball court actually makes you feel slightly accepted?

  • http://slamonline.com/ Tzvi Twersky

    Nice post again, Casey.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Wayno

    Love it, I’m diggin the posts Casey, keep em’ coming.

  • iamse7en

    Love this.

    Freakin’ cool. You scored 49 in a D1 game… I’m sorry, but that’s a much cooler achievement than guarding MJ or Crybaby.

  • luv2ball

    If I had to guard either of those guys I would immediately yell for help. I then would act like I twisted my ankle and ask for a sub.

  • http://www.tscblogs.com kyle

    Excellent post, Mr. Jacobson. These are stories that we’d never hear if not for you guys. I was a helper at the MJ camp in ’99, and even then the aura around the GOAT was palpable.

    I wish you the best of luck in Germany. Keep hittin us up with stories like this…its gold for us writers who never made it that far.


  • http://www.cyworld.com/tical2001 Robert Sim

    It’s just a story chill out

    good story

  • http://www.slamonline.com Wayno

    @ luv2ball – another approach would be to do a Carmelo Anthony style punch & run…lol

  • LB

    Hahaha awesome stories! Even though your stay in the NBA was kind of short, it seems like you thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Also noticed you were rocking the 23 in your phoenix days.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Jake Appleman

    Getting called a white boy on the court never gets old. Great stories, Casey.

  • David

    great stories, good read. and that looks like (a much taller) Michael Cera guarding Lebron.

  • Jesseg

    I wish the Suns would bring Casey back. He fit good with the Suns style. He is definitly an upgrade over someone like alando tucker too. I like tucker, but he just hasn’t panned out really. Casey have you had any offers to come back to the NBA?

  • todd

    It’s great to read a story that reminds everyone why we love this game, to know there’s a guy out there smiling and having fun going up against the best, that’s awesome

  • http://Slamonline.com DRE

    You are a ball player and a scholar, My man great storie keep them rolling son.

  • Donger

    so, at the jordan camp you played 5-on-4?

  • k.a.

    this couldve only been funnier if casey got called pretty white boy.

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  • la huey

    thx for sharing

  • Sleeze Bag

    Get over your self Tarzan. Casey is not being racist. He is simply stating what he was called. Take your drams somewhere else. We don’t wanna hear it. Casey J is the man. Lovin these blogs. Always interesting topics

  • http://www.slamonline.com James the balla

    Co sign Iamseven!!

  • hillbilly

    Tarzan wasn’t calling Casey a racist. He was just saying that it’s racist for a black player like MJ to say something like “no white boy has been ever been able to stop me before”. Anton’s also right…there’s definitely a double standard. But, MJ’s got a point, too…
    No white “boy” could stop him. In fact, the only white guy capable of holding His Airness to under twenty on a consistent basis was Dean Smith. And now you know…the rest…of the story. Good day!

  • http://www.another48minutes.blogspot.com Gerard Himself

    great story, keep ‘em coming Casey! (greetings from your friendly neighbor – a dutch guy)

  • http://hibachi20.blogspot.com Moose

    That was cool. We need Casey in the comments section!

  • http://www.triplejunearthed.com/dacre Dacre

    He didn’t say it, but wanted to….he shut both these guys down on those single posessions?!
    You funny man Casey.

  • http://www.in-n-outnba.blogspot.com Lucas

    hahhaahah great story.

  • luv2ball

    MJ: “You know know White boy has ever been able to stop me”

    What Casey should have said :”No Black people have been able to stop you either”

  • http://hibachi20.blogspot.com Blinguo

    Tarzan can’t play the offended card with his nonsense “oh its just a joke!” website advertising. Casey means it in a joking way and felt it endearing. You don’t have to be offended for him. But white people like to be offended at things (just like any other people) see the “things white people like blog” > your linked look same joke site.

  • http://hoopmixtape.ning.com/ Simon S.Y Lawy

    Lebrooom suck …

  • http://www.lkz.ch Darksaber

    Now THIS was a fun read…the excitement of meeting MJ still shines through 9 years on, thanks for giving some insight into playing against the greats, Casey.
    And finding the pic that accompanied the heckling you got in the Lebron game was brilliant.

  • http://www.twitter.com/Th3_R3al_Chris Young Chris MP3

    Casey Jacobsen has always been a funny personality. He could shoot the lights out too.

  • Teddy-the-Bear

    Awesome piece. That was really fun to read, actually. It must have been really cool to play against MJ in a pick-up game.

  • Teddy-the-Bear

    Co-sign Blinguo. Look at your link, Tarzan. In fact, all people agreeing with Tarzan, look at his link.

  • http://www.lkz.ch Darksaber

    naah thanks, Teddy. I’d rather relish the cool story here. If someone is yelling racism on this specific post, they’ll see racism in anything, and can’t be helped.

  • http://www.alllooksame.com Tarzan Cooper

    yes i knew that about larry, everyone does. yes i know all about being the only white guy on the court and everyone not even wanting to know my name, i was just white boy. and im not a kid, been hooping a long time. and as far as my link, weve been over this. its run by an asian guy and its educational. and i wasnt saying casey is being racist or whatever, just pointing out the double standard. tho it is fun when im playing well, then im dirk, or kirk hinrich, or steve nash, but when i miss a few shots, im keith van horn or chritian laettner,etc. i find much humor in that.

  • http://www.slamonline.com melvin ely

    I kinda hope Casey has a story for guarding Kobe and he shares it in the same light tone as this one. And he’d be all like “No white boy has been able to guard me before. But white girls, well that’s another story.”

  • http://www.alllooksame.com Tarzan Cooper

    i really hope thats the real melvin ely

  • http://slamonline.com Ben Osborne

    Best I ever got called when I was shooting well was Rex Chapman (back when he and I could each ball a bit). These columns are great and it would be cool if Casey checked the comments. Also, if Casey likes MJ so much I hope he bought our special issue (http://www.primediabackissues.com/Merchant2/merchant.mvc?Screen=PROD&Store_Code=PB&Product_Code=SLAMJRDN&Category_Code=SLAM). Or, Casey, get me your mailing address. Sending you a free copy is the least we could do to thank you for these columns…

  • chintao

    There is a surplus of credulousness in these comments.

  • chintao

    Tarzan was merely channeling doyouwantmore.

  • http://Www.lkz.ch Darksaber

    Dang, Melvin. U nasté.

  • Antonio


    Great Post.

    My name is Antonio. I am from Sacramento, CA and attended Stanford from ’93-97′ before u got there.

    Its interesting to hear your accounts of having to guard MJ and LBJ. Is LBJ for real ? Its like some BasketballGod has taken the best parts of Magic, Larry, and MJ ….and put it together in 1 human being.

    I played high school basketball, and attended Stanford between ’93-97′, before you got there.

    I remember watching the Stanford vs Duke game in Dec 2000 of the PeteNewellChallenge where U paced Stanford & kept us in the game for the 1st Half until the cavalry (The CollinsTwins, McDonald, & JuliusBarnes) got it going in the 2ndHalf. BigUps to you for your performance in that Historic Game ! [That 84-83 win really validated Stanford Basketball as being on a Par with all the other National Programs eg Kansas, Duke, NorthCarolina, UConn etc !]

    I’m African-American from Sacramento, CA… and I just want to set the record straight about some of the posts above that suggest MJ and LBJ may have been trying to insult you. I think not, (I know u already know this Casey …so I say this for the benefit of the other readers and commenters on this blog).

    In the context of hooping with my white teammates on my high-school team, if they made a great play or D’eed somebody up, or broke someones ankle, myself or some of the other african-american players on the team might saying something like :

    “WhiteBread reppin’ to the fullest ! ”


    “WhiteChocolate: melts in your mouth not in your hands !”

    Never, ever, did we ever say this with any intent to be disparaging or racist. These were our ‘homies’. On balance, our white teammates would throw it back at us. If we the african-american players were in the locker room & the lights went out …our white teammates might jest “Hey Antonio ..smile so we can see where you’re at” or if we were on a road trip and going into a restaurant in a predominantly white area of Sacramento, our white teammates would jest “Hey Antonio, maybe it would be better if you sat away from us in the back of the restaurant ,,,then maybe we might get our food faster!”

    Our white teammates never aimed those jests at us (their african-american teammates) with race or malice … and we never took them as insults.

    This is the family environment of a Team. We are all a band of brothers on the team be we black,white, asian or hispanic.

    And if&when we went to an AwayGym and any trouble started up with the oppositeteam or their fans.. all 12 of us on the team (blacks, whites, mexicans, asians) were ready to take it out to the parking lot and drop gloves like a band of 12Brothers agaisnt whoever wanted to line up against us.

    To this day (some 20years have gone by & ..all 12 of us are all married and some of us have families). Myself and my high-school teammates (white, black, hispanic and asian) are still close. The bonds of being on a sports team supercede & transcend ethnicity … and endure over time even now that we are ‘dads’ and ‘packing an extra 5 or 10 pounds’ Thats what is the beauty of sports. It unites people.

    Seldom, do we see such close brotherhoods across ethnic-lines happen anywhere outside of sports, athough I am happy to say with our NewPresident President Obama (bi-ethnic himself & having a TeamSports background) … this cooperation, respect, & genuine caring between different cultures and ethnicities is becoming more the norm, than the exception.

    Anyway, back to the original point of my post Casey. Good luck with your career. Please keep blogging about your experiences balling and living in TheNBA and Europe, so we Stanford Basketball die-hards can hear the latest scoop.

    It was a pleasure watching you play while you were at Stanford University, as well as when you played for the PhoenixSuns, both how you played and how you carried yourself off the court. I remember CoachMontgomery many times ready to blow a gasket as you launched a shot from 10 feet behind the 3-point arc, only to head back to his seat on the bench once u drained it.

    Do you know what the latest story is with JuliusBarnes ? It was great watching You and Julius and Curtis Borchardt tear the Pac-10 up! Best of Luck, bro !

    -Antonio (Stanford class of 1997)

  • Antonio


  • http://www.slamonline.com melvin ely

    @tarzan: sadly I am nowhere near as awesome as the real melvin ely is. This is just a tribute.

  • jk_light

    Great read. Keep em coming, Casey!

  • http://hibachi20.blogspot.com Blinguo

    You can go one situation where you are called a “boy” every so often if some Americans had to be called “boy” in any situation anywhere, for years and years before the status quo was finally broken. MJ’s been a bigger bastard than that in his & his Bulls history of “FUBAR.”
    Educational or not, the web admin @ this alllooksame is not creative if he can’t come up with a better way to get hits and people to follow him/talk about his site. You can get your Asian culture news fill without that nonsense plenty of other places. Doing that crap to attempt to stand out, jokes on him.

  • stokesey

    Great insight Casey,

  • Prentice

    This just reminds me how rare a talent like MJ’s or LeBron’s is. Casey Jacobsen is better at basketball than 99% of us could ever dream of being, and he still looks up to them with a God-like respect. Its crazy how gifted those guys are.

  • Sparker

    i once hit a couple of long jumpers to pull my team ahead in a very competitive playground game, and the next time i came down the court, someone who was not a white boy yelled: “someone cover larry f*cking bird.” this was not unpleasant to hear

  • http://www.another48minutes.blogspot.com Gerard Himself

    Antonio made a great post. It’s what you call having a thick skin and not get insulted by everything. Good post Antonio, long, but I read it!

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  • Strotter

    FYI, when African American players jibe and call you “white boy”, generally its all in fun. If you notice on the court, we will call each other all kinds of names with playing PUGs because its hard to remember everyone’s name. Most of the time we love to see a white guy come out and play with us, because on the playgrounds so many people think we are thugs and such and are scared. When a black guy comes and plays we respect him and we love to throw out names like larry, dirk, rex, etc. There is nothing racist about it. Its giving a white player the same treatment we give each other.

  • http://slamonline.com Allenp

    Much better post than the first one. I liked this a lot.

  • max

    lovin the blog, but the heading always irritates me, cause something like the Deutsche Land Pöst doesnt exist and doesnt make sense. Its either Deutschland Post or Deutsche Land Post or just Deutsche Post…

  • http://www.triplejunearthed.com/dacre Dacre

    max, isn’t that middle variation, what the actual thing is?

  • backboard

    what max said. either Deutschland Post or Deutsche Post!

  • http://Www.lkz.ch Darksaber

    Gotta love it when “die Deutschen” take issue with the spelling of the title, even though it’s kinda obvious that the title is a parody of the real thing. Bleibt ruhig, was spielts für ne Rolle wie der Titel buchstabiert ist? Enjoy the cool stories from a bonafide ex Nba player.

  • http://sports.yahoo.com/nba/blog/ball_dont_lie/post/Video-Guy-Dupuy-s-ridiculous-new-dunk;_ylt=ArUf78nf1e6m.CYLHndihuG8vLYF?urn=nba,187926 Dacre

    OKAY CLICK ON MY NAME: self alley, over a dude, THROUGH THE LEGS windmill!
    watch it now.

  • http://Www.lkz.ch Darksaber

    Ok Dacre, that is just freaking amazing. The crowd getting into it was just as exciting to watch.

  • http://sports.yahoo.com/nba/blog/ball_dont_lie/post/Video-Guy-Dupuy-s-ridiculous-new-dunk;_ylt=ArUf78nf1e6m.CYLHndihuG8vLYF?urn=nba,187926 Dacre

    isn’t it just!?!!?
    never been done before, that dunk.
    you know, this is the kind of thing we want in the NAB dunk comps…

  • http://sports.yahoo.com/nba/blog/ball_dont_lie/post/Video-Guy-Dupuy-s-ridiculous-new-dunk;_ylt=ArUf78nf1e6m.CYLHndihuG8vLYF?urn=nba,187926 Dacre

    or even the NBA ones too…

  • http://Www.lkz.ch Darksaber

    Oh i’m sure the NAB (haha) wouldn’t mind having them either

  • http://www.mynameinblue.blogspot.com Hisham

    ne is short for eine.

  • http://www.associatedcontent.com/sandydover Sandy Dover

    Great post, Casey.

    Ben, you should holler at me about my subscription–SLAM’s distributors stopped my subscription for no reason last year, when I due for my Chris Paul and I didn’t even get my free T-shirt!

  • -Ardi

    Great post Casey!

  • http://slamonline.com Ben Osborne

    Send me an email, Sandy, and we’ll figure something out. As for the people complaining about the blog name, give me a break.

  • http://slamonline.com Niya-girl-fresh

    I wish people would stop comparing LeBron to Micheal. His style of game is not the same as Micheal’s. Even the Cavs GM mentioned he doesn’t see MJ style in LeBron’s game. LeBron is like a mixture of Magic on steroids and someone else. Just because he wears number 23 doesn’t make him anything like MJ. Kobe wears 24 doesn’t mean he’s like or better than Jordan. However LeBron has strength and power like MJ did because they had solid frames and that can be tough to guard because they just bold you over especially when in the paint. But MJ had a wide variety of shot selections and moves LeBron still has not developed that yet, he’s all power and strength and relies mainly on his athleticsm. The closet player to Mj’s move variety I’m not comparing games I’m comparing their variety, is Kobe Bryant even MJ mentioned that. But people need to stop comparing everybody to MJ, let him and his legacy BE.

  • jdubbs29

    I always got called Opie on the court. Larry or Dirk I would have taken. But Opie?