Bismack Biyombo played in Charlotte twice during his 12-year career from 2011-15 and 2018-21.
The Hornets were the last team Biyombo was on before he signed as a free agent with the Phoenix Suns on New Year's Day 2022, but Biyombo still has fond memories of his interactions with Charlotte owner and NBA legend Michael Jordan, who didn't hesitate taking on Hornets' players even in his 50s.
Biyombo talked about playing under Jordan prior to the Suns' Tuesday night game against the struggling Hornets at Footprint Center in Phoenix. Biyombo said he still has a strong relationship with the icon.
“He’s always there to give advice to players and stuff," Biyombo said. "It’s somebody that I always know that I could reach out to if I need any advice whether you’re with their team or you’re playing for another team.”
Jordan’s presence has been known to make players from the high school through NBA levels compete harder to impress him if he steps into their arena or practice gym.
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This year marks 20 years since Jordan retired, and he turns 60 in February. But Father Time seemingly didn’t catch up to Jordan’s masterful skills on the court through his early-to-mid 50s, according to Biyombo.
Jordan’s unremitting desire to never back down when being challenged at anything, or his own mind games to beat anyone in his way have been well documented. He led the Chicago Bulls to six NBA titles in the 1990s, including one over the Phoenix Suns in the 1993 finals.
Biyombo said Jordan always used to sting his Hornets players in one-on-one games, no matter who got in line to try and check him.
“Mike is Mike, man. I’ve seen him play one-on-one with players after the games, and one by one was taking them out. So this was probably I think seven, eight years ago,” Biyombo said. “He would come into practice and just play one-on-one with players and just kill them, 100 percent. I (didn't) think he could move like that.
"I think somebody during COVID (in 2020) actually challenged him because we had a phone call, and (he) said, ‘Give me a couple months, I just need to get in shape. I don’t need to run and all that, but just a couple months, and I’ll be ready for one-on-one.’ I wouldn’t suggest anybody to do that (laughs).”
Biyombo said he's learned from Jordan's mentorship with young players. Biyombo said he still communicates with many of former Hornets teammates, whom he calls his "little brothers," including their All-Star LaMelo Ball.
Biyombo gave his perspective about Jordan's rebuilding process centered around Ball, who's now in his third year, but is doubt against the Suns (right wrist soreness, left ankle soreness). Charlotte entered Tuesday's game 14th in the Eastern conference standings, losing eight of their previous 11 games, including Monday to Utah.
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“It’s a young team, obviously, and they’re trying to build around LaMelo," Biyombo said. "It’s always from a younger guy perspective when you’re in the league and you’re in that position, you want to get better and you want to continue to get better. Obviously, they’ve gone through a rough time, so to speak, not winning as many games as they want to.
"But I know Michael is a competitor, so he’s trying to figure out how he can have a better season next year. But at the same time, those young guys, I still talk to them. Those are like my little brothers, so I always find joy competing against them and seeing how far they have come. But if you go back to the year LaMelo came in until now, he has matured so much.”
This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Bismack Biyombo recalls how owner Michael Jordan would take on players