Ex-NBA pro Jordan Crawford has a story to tell — and a whole lot more

Ex-NBA pro Jordan Crawford has a story to tell — and a whole lot more

Seeing Cam Thomas fade into the background makes Jordan
Crawford’s blood boil. 

The two never suited up together, but they did both play for the
Long Island Nets — Brooklyn’s G League affiliate — as recently as
last season, so Crawford got to see what Thomas could do behind the

“All these players now, they think they’re a bucket. Everybody
calls themselves a bucket and all this. You can tell the way he
scores is a different level than average the way somebody scores,
’cause he can really put the ball in the hole,” Crawford told
Basketball News in a phone interview from China, where his third
stint in the Chinese Basketball Association recently got

A short month ago, amidst Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant being
traded out of town, Thomas exploded with three consecutive
40-plus-point performances over the longest stretch of minutes he’s
had in his NBA career. He was going to the cup, getting to the line
and pulling up from the parking lot with great success.

Compare that to last week, and he’s vanished from the rotation.
Excluding Thursday’s 21-point performance in 26 minutes, he played
a combined 14 minutes in the three previous games, even receiving a
DNP-CD to boot. Watching from afar, Crawford feels Thomas looks
anxious on the court — something that he can so closely relate

“I never really got to showcase my game in the United States
honestly or in the NBA as far as like, ‘I know I got this role for
a whole a season, the same exact role for a whole season.’ ‘Cause
when you do have that comfort, it allows you to play your true game
(and be) who you are,” Crawford said. “My game, I feel like in the
NBA, I always had to rush it because one day I was playing, next
day I may not play. One day I might play and one day I’m not. So I
never really got to be comfortable and just know, ‘The next day I
come into this facility, I’m gonna have the same role whether I
have a bad game or not.’ And for my career average to be what it
was [11.1 points per game], I think that’s impressive because my
time was so inconsistent.

“That’s why I was (feeling) so strong about the Cam Thomas thing
’cause it’s like, you see someone get 40 three straight times and
then you stop playing ’em. And then, as months go by, of course
everybody forgets it and you just automatically think, ‘Oh, he must
not have been playing well. That’s why they didn’t play him.’ It’s
like, no! It’s just the business of (basketball) stopped him. And
then now, his career’s up in the air, again.”

Crawford argues that if you were to give Thomas a concrete
25-to-30 minutes per night, his game would flourish. Instead of
rushing his shots due to the unknown of substitution patterns and
an inconsistent situation, he’d be more willing to pass the ball
and understand that it’ll come back to him. There’d be a calmer
nature to his game, which in turn would benefit both the individual
and the team.

As for others he’d like to see get more opportunities, former
NBA point guard Tremont Waters and Nets two-way player David Duke
Jr. come to mind. G League talents, he believes, have more hunger
than many in the NBA: “I really want the NBA to start doing
preseason where they play some G League teams, but I know they’re
not gonna do that.”

Ultimately, he doesn’t want Thomas to fall victim to what he
went through during his time in the NBA, a period of Crawford’s
life he did not mince words about or hide names when asked to
describe it.

“I mean, I had bad experiences everywhere I went. I’m not afraid
to say it,” Crawford shared. “When I was with Mark Jackson in
Golden State, I would’ve loved to play with Klay [Thompson] and
Steph [Curry], you know what I’m saying? Shaun Livingston, Jordan
Poole, all these people have gotten to do it. But like, it was such
an inconsistent role. When I was in New Orleans, we had Anthony
Davis, DeMarcus Cousins, Rajon Rondo, Jrue Holiday, E’Twaun Moore.
We had a great team, a team that could compete with Golden State,
and Alvin Gentry was the coach. We had an advantage against them
because we had strong, physical guys, big and small guards like
Jrue Holiday, who could check a Kevin Durant or a Steph Curry. So
my thing was like… I wish the NBA would keep it basketball

“You get these people in positions like an Alvin Gentry, who
cares more about his position than actually the competition of
basketball, trying to win this series that we in. So, it was
obviously a series that we could’ve won, but with him not using his
whole roster and him just caring about, ‘We don’t have to win, as
long as I get another extension on my contract, I don’t really care
about winning,’ it’s really doing a disservice to the whole state
of Louisiana and the city of New Orleans. It’s like, how about we
try to win? And that would make the game better, honestly and
that’d make the business better. I was with New Orleans and he
didn’t play me. I felt like it hurt the team because we needed guys
that could compete on the scoring level of certain guys on the
other team. So I just feel like it be too much of people’s egos
getting in the way.”

Crawford relays that it felt the same with the Boston Celtics,
Atlanta Hawks and Washington Wizards too. In his eyes, his
unshakable confidence and competitive nature rattled these
organizations to the point where they wouldn’t give him any run.
Day-to-day, things would change in spite of his gift as a natural
volume scorer. It’s why he’s so critical of what he sees as a
political game in the NBA, then and now.

An example: Not too long ago, Crawford watched “All The Smoke”
with Matt Barnes and Stephen Jackson interviewing Dwight Howard. In
the interview, the veteran big man recalled a conversation before
the 2019-20 campaign where Los Angeles Lakers senior advisor Kurt
Rambis said, “You’re not Dwight Howard no more. Don’t expect to be
Dwight Howard when you come to the team.” Crawford couldn’t believe
what he heard, and it serves as another case study of what he’s
referring to with big-headed personnel.

“My thing is, there’s nothing wrong with that ’cause he’s not
the same Dwight Howard, but Kurt Rambis needs to understand Kurt
Rambis was never a Dwight Howard,” Crawford said. “So if
you talk to him with that humility of, ‘Listen, I’m just Kurt
Rambis, but I’m in this position of creating a team,’ that is the
way I feel you’re supposed to speak to a Dwight Howard, who’s damn
near a Hall-of-Famer. But when you come with this ego that’s like,
‘You’re not Dwight Howard,’ how you gon’ tell me I’m not Dwight
Howard? So that’s my thing with just coaching talent. It’s about
just showing respect from both sides, and you’re gonna get the most
out of a player when you did.”

Though his position on the league isn’t all sunshine and
rainbows, Crawford does have a goal to eventually come back for a
final run in the NBA — and it’s not just about the basketball.

“I definitely want to play for the Pistons. I think I deserve
(it) from what I’m doing on and off the court. I would love to play
for my hometown,” said Crawford, whose family holds season tickets
with the organization and is active in the Detroit community.

Together with his parents, Sylvia and Joseph Sr., and brothers,
Joe and Jalen, Jordan bought a building downtown and invested in a
real estate property near the Riverwalk in 2017. Coming together to
form Crawford Real Estate and Development Holdings LLC, they began
renting it out to people who needed a place for large events like
weddings, banquets and graduations. In the meantime, they were
working on getting permits and a liquor license.

Six years after the purchase, the Crawford family has announced
they’ll be tacking on a coffee shop-speakeasy hybrid to that event
space and renaming Street CRED to CRED
. Renovations are nearing completion as the cafe waits to
open its doors, which Crawford is admittedly more hyped about than
anything going on with his basketball career.

“It’s almost done. We got top-of-the-line stuff. It looks real
fancy and nice,” Crawford said. “It’s gonna be like a sneaky door
type that leads you into the bar. We was coming up with ideas as we
was just trying to see what made sense for real, and it just turned
out so dope.”

Home is where Jordan burst onto the scene. Joe, his oldest
brother, was a McDonald’s All-American representing Renaissance
High School in the early 2000s, so he was bound to follow suit.
However, due to his lack of focus in academics and a senior-year
broken ankle, it didn’t happen. That doesn’t mean Crawford didn’t
see the city’s best on the court.

Admittedly, in Detroit, there were no Nike or adidas camps he
attended. Crawford primarily developed under The Family, an AAU
program that produced many current and former NBA and professional players.
There, he got close to Michigan State’s Kalin Lucas and Durrell
Summers, Oregon’s Malik Hairston and Tajuan Porter, Michigan
standout Manny Harris and Memphis star Chris Douglas-Roberts.

“I think it’s just funny that I didn’t play in high school,
period. And I still was like, ‘I’m gonna make the NBA,’” Crawford
quipped. “It was a lot of talent that I was around. We was all on
AAU trips together. So being around those guys and playing against
’em, I mean, I felt like I played against the best before I ever
left Detroit.”

Crawford only briefly suited up for Communication and Media Arts
High School prior to leaving to play prep ball for Kevin Keatts at
Hargrave Military Academy in Virginia in 2006-07. (Another highly
recognized and decorated institution that’s produced a lot of NBA and pro

After that, Crawford wound up at Indiana University on the same
team as sure-fire one-and-done freshman guard Eric Gordon and savvy
senior D.J. White, with Kelvin Sampson as the head coach.
Unfortunately, that October, Sampson was forced out by the NCAA due
to allegations of improper recruiting via impermissible phone
calls; Crawford still has love for him. (Sampson currently coaches
the top-ranked Houston Cougars.)

Dan Dakich took over the team in the interim ahead of a mass
exodus the following season in Bloomington. Crawford was one of
many who exited stage left, ending up at Xavier with Chris Mack and
the Musketeers. Unlike these days with the transfer portal, where
there is no longer a waiting period, Crawford had to sit out an
entire season before stepping onto the court for his new

“I think that the players can make their own choice. I do think
it gets tricky because you have to face adversity in order to get
better as a player,” Crawford said of changing schools. “You can’t
just run when things get hard, but you do need to know if it’s time
to get out and transfer. But you do need to know when it’s just
adversity and you need to fight through it. This transfer (portal),
the fact that you ain’t gotta sit out… young kids, they think
they know it all. So when they’re mad and they make that emotional
move, they don’t realize it’s gonna be harder leaving than staying.
Then, you’re listening to parents and all this, so it’s tricky.
It’s real tricky.”

Before he could even put on his Xavier threads for the first
time, Crawford became an internet sensation. In July 2009, he put
LeBron James on a poster — at his own summer camp, hosted at the
LeBron James Skills Academy in his hometown of Akron, Ohio.

A buzzworthy moment that happened just as the pick-up game
started to get underway, Crawford’s name began trending on an
up-and-coming social-media platform called Twitter. Two hours
later, he got back to his hotel, where he got a call from his
Musketeers teammate Mark Lyons.

“’Did you dunk on LeBron?!’” Crawford remembers him asking. “I
was like, ‘Damn, how did you hear about that? This just happened,
how did you hear?’ (Word) was already, I guess, going around and
stuff. And I remember (Xavier assistant) Mario Mercurio, when I got
back to Xavier after that, he grabbed me into his room and was
like, ‘We’re making you a Twitter right now.’ And I still got all
them followers from that. I still got 70,000 followers on Twitter
just because of that dunk on LeBron.”

Because Nike’s team confiscated video footage of the
dunk from two journalists
, the dunk received even more
attention. The top high school basketball players from the area
were there to watch and “went crazy,” spreading the word. 

“I think by that noise that all them made, made (Nike) be like,
‘Alright, it’s something to this,’ when really, (Nike) made it
bigger by all y’all finding out. ‘Damn, they hidin’ the tapes. What
was it?’ ‘Cause it really wasn’t nothing,” Crawford laughed. “I’m
appreciative of it because so many people still recognize me from
it. I would love for Nike to hand over that tape now that I’m

Crawford didn’t care about going viral at the time. Matter of
fact, he was annoyed when people brought it up.

“For a whole bunch of years, I was like, ‘Man, I’m way more than
a dunker. I don’t want to talk about no dunk on LeBron. Y’all see
how nice I am at basketball?’ That was my take,” Crawford said.
“But now, I’m like, it’s cool now that I’m older. It was definitely
a dope thing that happened. That was the first time I felt like the
world heard about me, and I used that to go into my Xavier

While his lone season with the Musketeers was a smashing
success, it didn’t necessarily get off on the best foot. At 5-3,
coming off a loss at Kansas State and heading into the annual
Crosstown Shootout with arch-rival Cincinnati, Mack pulled Crawford
from the starting lineup for the only time that year. Crawford
believes it’s the reason he made it to the NBA.

“We was in the huddle, and he was like, ‘We could be (5-3)
without you, Craw. You got all this hype coming in and we (5-3). We
could be (5-3) if you didn’t play.’ So I remember just taking that
and using it as motivation to be like, ‘Nah, I’mma show you,’”
Crawford recounts. “And he also did a thing in the offense; he
designed the offense for me too as he was being critical of me, and
it just turnt us up to where we made that little run, a run that I
wish could’ve been longer. But it definitely, I feel like,
propelled me to be a first-rounder.”

Altogether — alongside Tu Holloway, whom Crawford believes needs
his jersey retired — he and the Musketeers put together a memorable
season, including a double-overtime thriller vs. the Bearcats and a
worthy NCAA Tournament showing that ended in double overtime
against that same Kansas State squad in the Sweet Sixteen.

Crawford averaged a sizzling 20.5 points on 46.2% from the field
and 39.1% from long range, ranking fourth in both field-goal makes
and attempts in the NCAA in 2009-10. Thanks to his efforts, the
then-New Jersey Nets selected him with the No. 27 overall pick in
the 2010 NBA Draft. He was traded to the Hawks that night,
eventually getting dealt again at the 2011 trade deadline to the
Wizards. Then, he would get moved two more times in the next three

Regardless of his personal dealings throughout the first four
years of his NBA career, Crawford still made his mark. He’d won a
Player of the Week award, he had some 40-point games and he even
registered some triple-doubles. Unfortunately, teams around the
league weren’t ponying up the money that he and his agency at the
time believed was sure to come. Frustrated and confused, Crawford
left the NBA’s minimum offers on the table to pursue a career in
the CBA with the Xinjiang Flying Tigers, who offered him a
lucrative deal.

He concedes that it was an emotional decision, and at the time,
he didn’t realize the magnitude of his choice until he landed in

“When I came over, I actually had a real culture shock. A
situation that happened with my eyelids to where they wouldn’t open
up all the way,” Crawford said. “I had to hold my head up just to
look straight. They was only opening like a very little bit. And
then when I went home, I was going to doctors. They couldn’t tell
me what was wrong, but like as I was home for like a month, they
gradually just opened back up.”

From that point on, Crawford has not played a full season of
basketball. He has been everywhere from China and Russia to
Istanbul and Israel to Germany and Puerto Rico, but none of these
stops have included a demanding, nearly year-long schedule.
According to him, brief stints are the way he protects his love for
the game. 

“I’ve been at the stage of my career where when I’m in the right
mind space and if it’s something I feel is worth me doing, I do.
That’s kinda how it’s been,” Crawford explained. “I knew I created
a name for myself to where people know I’m good enough (that) I can
play anywhere. So, I used that. If I just go to these places for 10
months then come back home for a month then go back for 10 months,
I’m not gonna love this shit. So it was by design…. It was the
best way for me. It ain’t that way for everybody, but it was the
best way for me. When I have that itch to go hoop, I can give you
my all. I wasn’t gonna be irritated that I’m there. So it just fit
me the best.”

His third stint in the CBA is just getting underway with the
Sichuan Blue Whales, and the 13-year-pro is happy to be playing for
the first time in 10 months. Now, he has the perspective of how to
handle being away from home, and he loves the league and enjoys the
lifestyle. Outside of the money he makes, he embraces the high
competition level that comes with it.

“They have the money to go get the players that’s just leaving
the NBA or on the fringe, so they’ve got big names. And then, it’s
very competitive because you only can have two Americans on each
team, so it’s hard to get over here,” Crawford said. “And then, the
game is 12-minute quarters. It’s three games a week, so it’s very
competitive. It’s not as grueling as Europe and overseas. It’s a
little shorter, it’s more basketball than over there. It’s kinda as
close as you’re gonna get to like NBA-style basketball, I

In his Feb. 28 debut with the Blue Whales, Crawford poured in 14
points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 steals on 13 attempts in 18

“I had 13 more I wanted to get up,” chuckled Crawford, who in
the next two games dropped 18 points and 19 points with plenty of
shots going up. His goal is to earn another contract and a starting
gig in the CBA next season.

Crawford will always have the itch to hoop. It’s clear that
after all these years, he had the itch to talk too.

“I definitely have a unique story,” Crawford said. “I think it’s
good to tell it every once in a while.”

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