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'I was lucky': A Grand Rapids basketball great recounts time getting to know Michael Jordan

With their locker room space right next to each other, former Michigan State Spartan Matt Steigenga spent a lot of time talking to Jordan in 1997

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Even though he was around for just a couple of months as a member of the practice squad, Matt Steigenga still has a ton of great stories about his time playing with Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls.

“I was lucky,” he remembers. “At the United Center, I sat right next to him. I spent a lot of time talking to him before and after games.”

It sounds like quite the pair: Air and barely there. One might think they’d have nothing in common but incredibly, that wasn’t the case.

“I’m watching Michael, he’s walking across the parking lot. Steigenga recalls. “I notice, his jacket is looking a lot like my jacket. I’m thinking, wow!”

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Steigenga wasn’t trying to be like Mike but he does admit he wanted Mike to like him. That’s why the first time they talked, the Grand Rapids native came prepared.

When I was 16, I went down to Hilton Head Island. I got to play on a golf course that he was a member at. I had a hole in one at that golf course so I brought it up. His ears perked up.

The strategy worked to perfection. The former Michigan State star was on Mike’s good side, which he admits was better than the alternative.

“I think Michael was always hungry,” Steigenga explains. “I saw him yell at a lot of people. I saw some things that I’m watching on “The Last Dance.”

Playing with Jordan was a challenge but Steigenga says he’s proud of the way he faced it and he thinks Michael was too.

“I competed with him. I never backed down from him. I think that was something he always appreciated,” Steigenga says.

Some respect from "His Airness," a man who Steigenga believes is the best of all time and as he discovered in the spring of 1997, a really good teammate too.


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