It’s been two decades and Jalen Brunson is still kicking his kid self. During his appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, he recalled that (in)famous incident he turned down THE Michael Jordan. The anecdote rightfully made Jimmy Fallon drop his head on the table and bang his fist. Let’s make it clear, the newly minted All-Star did not refuse MJ’s autograph because he didn’t like him.
He was such a huge Jordan fan that he always had the #23 jersey with him. A golden opportunity came when Jordan went from the Bulls to the Washington Wizards. One day his dad, Rick Brunson, was playing against the Wizards and he took the then-five-year-old Jalen with him to meet his hero. The thing, though, young Jalen was jaded. “I’m not thinking any of it, my dad’s in the NBA, so I’m seeing these players all the time,” he told Fallon.
His dad once asked him if he wanted to meet Jordan. Brunson imitated his nonchalant kid self. “Yeah, I’ll go walk down and meet Michael.” He was even wearing Jordan’s jersey, though his dad was playing for the other team. Young Jalen got a Jordan jersey from every team at his dad’s away games. It was a special activity he shared with his mom. These memorabilia were extremely valuable to him.
When he was finally in front of the Jumpman who said, “Hey, you got my jersey, let me sign it,” silly little Jalen said, “Nah, you’ll mess it up.” Cue Jimmy Fallon hiding his face in secondhand horror. To drive home the epic mistake Jalen made, Fallon put it into perspective with a skit, “He offered to sign it and you went, ‘No thanks, Mr. Jordan, I appreciate it but I don’t want to mess it up.’”
Didn’t we all have that phase during our childhoods when we didn’t want adult fingerprints ruining our favorite possessions? But this was Michael Jordan offering an autograph. A legend who has become notorious for rejecting kids who ask him for autographs. Maybe Jalen scarred him for life. He at least traumatized the Wizards locker room.
“The whole locker room was like going crazy laughing and stuff. I’m just like, ‘It’s whatever, nah, I’m good.’” Fallon will need time to get where Brunson is now. He even quipped that Jalen went to therapy to get over his faux pas.
Jalen Brunson tries to fix his mistake
The 6x champion ended his NBA career in Washington. 15 years later, the kid who snubbed him debuted with the Dallas Mavericks in the 2018 season. He’s the point guard for the New York Knicks now and earned his first All-Star selection this year. None of this will get him over the missed opportunity.
Fallon did try to give him a shot at redemption the way Russell Westbrook got. After all, His Airness does watch The Tonight Show. He directly appealed to MJ, “Michael, can you send a jersey to Jalen, please?” And he gave Jordan an idea to get back at Jalen too. “And sign it? Just say, ‘Hey, you messed it up, kid.”‘