Ann Killion
Tuesday October 27th, 2009

It's fascinating how genetics can shape an athlete. Michael Jordan, for example, appears to have passed along some of his talents to his kids.

And when you examine the Jordan DNA under a microscope, it's stamped with a swoosh.

Jordan's son Marcus, a freshman at University of Central Florida, is reportedly refusing to wear the team issued shoes because they are the wrong brand. UCF has a contract with adidas. Young Marcus wants to wear his Air Jordans. This is keeping with a fine family tradition of putting corporate loyalty before all else. (Let's be clear, this has nothing to do with the brand of shoes; it's about a player's decision to go against the team.)

In 1992, Marcus' father -- the most famous member of the original Dream Team -- used the American Flag as masking tape, earning himself a spot in the Olympic Hall of Shame. On the medal podium in Barcelona, Jordan draped himself in the Stars and Stripes, not out of patriotism but so that the logo for Reebok -- the Team USA supplier -- wouldn't be visible.

Jordan pledged allegiance to the swoosh of the corporation of Nike. Then and always. Just this year, Jordan showed up at a Chicago hockey game to wave to the crowd while wearing a Blackhawks jersey. But only after he carefully taped over the Reebok logo.

Apparently such behavior can be inherited. Now Marcus Jordan's refusal to wear UCF's team shoes puts UCF's new adidas deal -- pegged at $3 million -- at risk

No report yet that Dad is willing to cover the deficit.

Michael Jordan has a contract with Nike. As far as I'm aware, the contract doesn't include his family.

His children may never have to work a day in their lives thanks to Nike. But Jordan's son seems to be confused about how exactly his father gained such a powerful platform and enormous earning power.

It was by playing basketball.

A team sport.

Marcus Jordan's father learned his trade at North Carolina, in the era before intense haggling between collegiate teams and apparel manufacturers. But Dean Smith's philosophy translates across eras and trends.

Smith's mantra -- which he wrote about in The Carolina Way -- was "putting team ahead of self, first and foremost." Larry Brown summarized it as getting "guys to play selflessly."

When Jordan was a freshman in college, he wasn't allowed to appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated because Smith said he hadn't earned it yet. The morning after his game-winning shot that gave the Tar Heels the 1982 national championship, Jordan was spotted carrying the projector and film reels because that's what freshmen did. It was Smith's way of making sure newcomers worked for the team.

But Marcus Jordan's first noteworthy achievement as a collegiate athlete was to separate himself from his team by announcing at a team media event, "I'm going to be wearing Jordan shoes. It's a level of importance with the Jordan Brand and my family."

Marcus Jordan has said he reached an agreement about his footwear with UCF during the recruiting process. But in an earlier interview, he said he was fine wearing the team uniform.

"I wear the adidas gear that I've been given," he told a Chicago blogger. "It is what it is."

Apparently he changed his mind. That's also a trait that runs in the family. Brother Jeff just rejoined the University of Illinois after leaving the team last season. (For inquiring minds, yes, the Illini are a Nike school). And, of course, their father retired three times, changing his mind about that decision twice.

It's been a tough autumn for the Jordan image. Last month, Jordan chose to use his induction into the Hall of Fame to unload a catalog of petty affronts from his past. Instead of appearing as a gracious legend, he came off as self-absorbed and oddly bitter.

At one point during that speech he looked at his children in the audience and shook his head sadly.

"You guys have a heavy burden," he said. "I wouldn't want to be you guys."

It's true that being the offspring of the uber-famous can be uncomfortable. Usually those kids try to blend in with their peers.

But Marcus Jordan seems unfazed by drawing attention to himself. If he had any chance of fitting in at UCF as just another team member, he ruined that with his stubborn allegiance to a corporate logo, one that he did nothing to earn.

"It's just a lot of pressure, being Michael Jordan's son," he said in the earlier interview. "It's tough for anyone to be in my shoes."

And, in the Jordan family, it is all about the shoes.

(Want more college hoops? Check out Seth Davis' new blog)

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