Detroit Pistons: How Michael Jordan motivated Rip Hamilton to be an All-Star

Michael Jordan, Richard Hamilton (Photo by MARIO TAMA/AFP via Getty Images)
Michael Jordan, Richard Hamilton (Photo by MARIO TAMA/AFP via Getty Images) /

Michael Jordan dangled a shoe sponsor out in front of Richard Hamilton, contingent on him becoming an All-Star. He would do that with the Detroit Pistons

Playing for Michael Jordan late in his storied career had to be challenging. Detroit Pistons champion Richard Hamilton had to endure that early on in his own career when playing with the Washington Wizards.

Jordan, past his prime and having already been a part-owner of the Wizards (he had to surrender ownership to play again) prior to suiting up for the team, was known to be testy in D.C., likely frustrated with the lack of talent on those Wizards teams and with the fact that his own skill level just wasn’t what it used to be.

Starting your career off with Jordan in D.C. might be enough to run you straight out of the NBA.

For Rip Hamilton, though, some of the discussions with Jordan mentored and motivated him.

Jordan, early on in Hamilton’s career, denied him of a sneaker endorsement, even though the pair were close as teammates during the 2001-02 season:

"“’Hey Rip, my sneakers [are] for All-Stars,’ [Jordan said], and at that time I’m like ‘wow, wow really?’ And then my other young fella, I don’t want to say his name, he went and said, hey Mike what about me, put me in your sneaker!’ and [Jordan] would say, ‘your game is not to the liking of my sneaker, not good enough for my sneaker.’”"

“You just had to have thick skin with him,” Hamilton said about playing with an aged Jordan late in his career on the Wizards.

It’s a funny picture, too, to imagine MJ handing out shoe sponsors based on challenges he handed out to NBA players.

Prior to spending time on the court together, Jordan was part owner of the Wizards and acted as a mentor figure for Hamilton in his young career. Hamilton, drafted by the Wizards seventh overall in the 1999 NBA Draft, spent the first three years of his career with the Wizards before being traded to the Pistons in the same offseason that they also nabbed Tayshaun Prince and Chauncey Billups.

Though Hamilton was now far from Jordan’s direct influence, he pressed on. Though it would take him five years, Hamilton completed the Jordan challenge, making the All-Star team in three straight seasons from 2006-2008, averaging 19.1 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 3.8 assists, shooting 41.3 percent beyond the arc and 48.1 percent from the field in those years.

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All-Star motivations are natural for any NBA player. In terms of individual honors, it’s one of the most prestigious seasonal awards aside from the Most Valuable Player Award.

But make no mistake, Jordan’s challenge to Hamilton was part of the reason he pushed on to make the All-Star team. The challenge to become a Jordan athlete motivated Hamilton to make those teams, at least in part.

"“I’m gonna come back to MJ, and I did after I made the All-Star team and I said, ‘hey, M, now I’m an All-Star, NOW you’ve got to put me in that sneaker and now you’ve got to pay me the big bucks,” Hamilton said."

A Jordan challenge like no other, one that Hamilton surely fulfilled with the Detroit Pistons. Hamilton was a long-tenured Jordan athlete throughout his career and has had several sneakers come out alongside the Jordan brand, some in classic silhouettes.

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