Knicks share favorite Jordan stories

Carmelo Anthony isn't the only lucky Knick who's had a chance to get to know Michael Jordan through the years. J.R. Smith, Steve Novak and Ronnie Brewer have all had special encounters with the greatest of all time.

ESPNNewYork.com spoke with the three of them to learn how Jordan -- who turns 50 on Sunday -- made a memorable imprint on their lives.

J.R. SMITH (age 27)

I think the most underrated thing about MJ -- still, many people know -- is his competitiveness. I mean, he wants to win at everything, whether it's cards, golf, basketball, anything. He wants to win at all costs.

We've spent some time together and he's always told me to try to get my midrange game going because I've always been more of a long shooter and with dunks. So he's always told me to work on my midrange game as much as I could.

It's been a blessing to be able to grow up in that era, when I was actually able to see him play and see his sneakers really grow. I've got an MJ tattoo on my chest. I got it last summer in Los Angeles. MJ's like my all-time leading hero ever. I have probably over, honestly, 1,000 pairs of sneakers, and probably 600 of them are Jordans. My favorite Jordan is the II's by far.

Sometimes I wear them during games. It depends on how I feel and it depends on how my game is going at halftime. I may end up changing them. On Sunday against the Clippers, I was in warmups with my regular Nikes on. I was like, "Nah, I can't do this." Then I switched to my Melos, but I was having a bad half, so I switched to the Jordan XII's.

STEVE NOVAK (age 29)

I guess you assumed he'd still be playing at 50. That's the surprising thing. It's wild, it's crazy to think.

Guys that are my age, we grew up when he was playing. That was his era. I mean, he was the basketball hero. For me, it's like Brett Favre and Michael Jordan. You associate the NBA and greatness and championships with Michael Jordan. There is a reason that every guy in every NBA locker room, whether they have a shoe contract with him or not, they have Jordan stuff.

Growing up, my good friend had video tapes of Jordan -- all these, just, highlight videos and his greatest shots, and championship runs and stuff like that. We would watch the videos, we would watch the moves he would make and then we would go out and we would play for hours. That was the guy who we looked up to when we were young kids.

I finally met him last year. It was unbelievable. When I met him, it was in Charlotte after a game and he came up to me in the loading dock when we were getting on the bus, and I think he said, "Hey, Nove, how you doing?" And he talked about the belt (Novak's celebration for 3-pointers), and I couldn't believe it. It blew my mind to think first of all he knew my name. ... I called my wife and said, "You're not going to believe this."


MJ's a phenomenal player, a legend. It doesn't seem like he's turning 50. You still see clips of him still working out and shooting some shots when he's with the Bobcats. They've been showing clips of him this week and it makes you realize how amazing he was.

I first met him when I worked his Flight School camp in Santa Barbara when I was in college. He just told me, "Continue to work hard, don't let a lot of critics get you down. They might say your shot is this, your shot is that, but continue to play hard and if you can do that, you'll be in this league for a long time."

Then I saw him years later when I was playing for the Bulls. They had like a couple anniversaries for that championship team, so I got to meet him, say hello. It was really cool.

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