He was unreal that night. Jordan Crawford displayed his entire arsenal, his vast array of scoring abilities, from inside and out, finishing with a career high 41 points on 16-of-28 shooting from the field. That’s a feather in the cap for most players, but Crawford will only remember the performance as his last regular season game in an NBA uniform.
Crawford was thrust into the limelight in 2009 when video emerged of a wiry, 20-year-old dunking on LeBron James in a pickup game. Poof. Just like that, everyone knew the name Jordan Crawford. At Xavier he followed up those 15 minutes of fame by devouring the Atlantic 10 Conference to the tune of 20.5 points a night on 46.2 percent shooting and 39.1 percent 3-point shooting.
Look, not all can rise to the occasion time and time again. Even talented young men can succumb to the pressures of fame and notoriety, but Crawford thrived on it and used that expanded stage to vault himself to the NBA.
And then, after playing for four teams in five years, the enigmatic, crossover-happy, score-at-will guard was suddenly without a home in the league.
Crawford wakes up with the urge to eat. A moment of exasperation waffles through him as he realizes he cannot simply fulfill the basic need of eating without the help of another. He’s in China and has to go everywhere with a translator. It’s quite cumbersome, but such is life when you take a job halfway across the globe.
Crawford relayed the experience to The Step Back in two terms, “From a basketball standpoint it was great. The fans over there really do love the game and they love the Americans who come over to play”.
He continued with the other side, “The off court life hit me kinda hard. I needed a translator to go anywhere. I had to find out what to eat and how to eat. It was a humbling experience but I understand how to take the good and the bad and put it to use”.
The Chinese Basketball Association loves any player who can come into a game and light up the scoreboard, so naturally Crawford was very popular. Last season he averaged 43.1 points per game on 31.4 shot attempts (48.9 percent shooting) for Tianjin.
The term “green light” is often associated with players who can shoot anytime they want and in China, Crawford’s light was ultra neon green, like a cheap motel’s vacancy sign.
Players shuffle into a practice gym wide-eyed ready to start their arduous journey that defines a fringe NBA player’s life — it’s the first day of training camp for the NBA D-League’s Grand Rapids Drive. Crawford is familiar with the setting, because he grew up only two hours from Grand Rapids, Michigan and he’s been in this situation before. He knows what it takes when the pressure is constantly present; like a whisper causing the hairs on your neck to stand up. A lot of these other guys don’t, and that’s an area Jordan wants to find a niche in as well.
He perks up when talking about the young guys, “I really want to help these young guys, show ’em the ropes a little bit. It’s easy to lose confidence when things aren’t going your way and I think I can really help them out”.
Perceptions are difficult to break. Crawford is often described as selfish, a me-first guy or only a scorer. Those are now misconceptions as far as he’s concerned. He elaborated for TSB, “When I first got to the league I wanted to be the greatest player…ever. More than anything that’s what I wanted. But once you learn there’s more to life than basketball, it’s easier to simply play and enjoy what you’re capable of doing on the court. My journey has been humbling and this is just part of the change I’ve had”.
Jordan Crawford is still a volume-shooting scorer; that’s really his niche. But at 6-foot-4, he’s proven he can handle the ball, distribute when asked and ultimately put the round orange thing in the hoop. Those are skills still coveted by NBA franchises and at 28-years-old, the decision for Crawford to start this season in the D-League was a “no-brainer” as he told TSB. The NBADL is the quickest path to the NBA during the season and Jordan is taking advantage.
NBA clubs are not simply looking at talent level when they scout the D-League, so the transformations Crawford has undergone — the increased maturity, improved play and ability to be an asset to a young locker room — will certainly aid his quest.
Through two games in Grand Rapids the team is 2-0 and Crawford leads the team in scoring at 26 points per game. His usage rate is a ridiculous 30.7 percent and he’s yet to notch a turnover. The team is employing the run-and-gun style that’s becoming prevalent across the league, scoring 130.5 points a game to lead the entire D-League.
Crawford is still the exciting, microwave-scoring, trash-talking guy who earned the Steezus moniker, but he’s more than that too and it’s time for the perception of him to evolve. The on-court product is largely consistent, however the man has changed greatly over these two years away from the NBA, and the changes are for the better.