Michael Jordan is no longer a fixture in Chicago, but his presence is still felt all over the city.
The Breakfast Club
Michael Finley is not only a 15-year NBA veteran, he’s also a Chicago area hoops legend and one of the original members of the Jordan Brand roster. Now he serves as an ambassador for the brand, giving back to the community with events like ‘The Breakfast Club’ which is geared toward basketball instruction for area youth.
The event has previously been held in Finley’s hometown of Maywood, IL where he starred as a prep at famed Proviso East HS (current Boston Celtics Head Coach, Doc Rivers and Los Angeles Lakers guard Shannon Brown both played there). But this year’s event was held the Carole Robertson Center on the city’s West Side and Finley was accompanied by NBA trainer to the stars, Idan Ravin, who is also a member of the SLAM family.
The event also featured some of Chicago’s elite young basketball prospects who acted as counselors. Players such as Whitney Young’s Jahlil Okafor, De La Salle’s Alvin Ellis and Orr’s Tyquan Greer were all in attendance.
Finley oversaw the different drills that the participants were taken through and even though none of the kids were probably old enough to remember his career, they were still fascinated by being in the presence of an NBA player. No one asked about his playing days, the kids just wanted to know what shoe size he wore and how tall he was.
Finley, ever gracious, answered each and every question (no matter how repetitive) and signed every autograph.
He was also very introspective about his role as an ambassador, not only for the brand, but for Chicago area basketball as well.
SLAM: You’ve done events like this in the past, but can you talk about the origin of the Breakfast Club for those who are unfamiliar?
Michael Finley: Well, it all started with the original ambassador and that was Michael Jordan. He had The Breakfast Club when he played with the Bulls. They used to come in and get a nice workout in before practice. So since he’s been away from the game we’ve just tried to continue that tradition going through his brand and we’ve been doing it the last couple of years, showing kids the importance of working out and keeping fit and just showing them that the stuff that they see on the court is the end result of the hard work that most of the players – especially with the brand – put in.
SLAM: Does it make you feel old that a lot of these kids out here today are probably too young to even remember your playing career?
MF: It’s not about feeling old, I am old [laughs]. I’m an older guy but I still think young and I like to play young. With that being said I like to play basketball, I still keep in shape so I can run up-and-down with the young guys. But like you said, I’m getting older, that’s no lie, but basketball is still my first love and I’ma do whatever I can to stay involved in this game.
SLAM: How important do you feel Jordan Brand is to Chicago in terms of giving back to kids like these and to the community in general?
MF: Well, it’s very important because MJ had a big influence on the game of basketball in Chicago. When he was part of the Bulls, everybody who lived in Chicago as a basketball fan was a Jordan fan on top of that. So you just saw the hard work that he put in on and off the court, the way he gave back to the community, it was always big to be a part of that. So for him to be away from Chicago in a sense but still giving back to the community, it shows the respect that he has for this city that pretty much raised him as well.
SLAM: And as far as the Jordan Brand goes, there are a lot of guys that’s a part of it. Chicago guys like yourself, Quentin Richardson and Bobby Simmons; but you also have a female player in Maya Moore now, also. Can you talk about how much the brand has grown since you became a part of it?
MF: I’m part of the original members of the brand and since then it has evolved into – I think – one of the most elite crews in all sports. We’re not just basketball we’re baseball now, football as well, so it’s expanded in that sense but from a basketball standpoint, if you look at the top players in the League, they’re wearing Jordans: Dwyane Wade, Chris Paul, Carmelo Anthony, just to name a few. Those 3 guys are a part of the Jordan fam and as an elder statesman, I’m just handing it over to them to keep the brand going for years and years to come and I think it’s in good hands. When MJ walked away he left it to guys like me, Ray Allen and Mike Bibby, and now we’re passing it on to the next generation of guys.