Go ahead, say it: Anthony Edwards looks a lot like Michael Jordan right now

Go ahead, say it: Anthony Edwards looks a lot like Michael Jordan right now

With the Denver Nuggets on the ropes, their home crowd seized with panic, Anthony Edwards took his time as Kentavious Caldwell-Pope — a champion and one of the league’s best on-ball defenders — shadowed his every move. With help defenders lurking, Edwards pointed for Minnesota Timberwolves teammate Karl-Anthony Towns to cross to the weak side.

Edwards and KCP are friends, fellow roses bloomed from the red clay of Georgia. Their closeness is the context for the scene that followed. There was 1:40 on the clock when Towns vacated. Minnesota was up nine in the fourth quarter. And Edwards was being intentional about, as he said, trying to “kill everything in front of me.” Homies included. Once he got Caldwell-Pope on his back, and room to work on the left wing, his dribble changed. It had a rhythm as he backed down the Nuggets’ best defender with baby steps. Bounce. One-two. Bounce. One-two. Bounce. One-two. But instead of the next bounce, Edwards spun back toward the baseline. His fluid pivot allowed him to lift off smoothly.

Caldwell-Pope has an inch on Edwards, per NBA data. But at the release of the shot, Edwards was a towering figure over his Nuggets counterpart. Edwards’ turnaround, fade-away jumper splashed, Denver was cooked for Game 1 and we all had a moment to marvel.

“I’m not saying who, Reg,” Jamal Crawford, NBA legend in his own right, said to broadcast partner and Hall of Famer Reggie Miller on TNT. “But it looks kiiiiiinda familiar. Late game, takeover in the mid-post, fade-away style.”

“Say who Jamal,” Miller replied. “What you talkin’ ‘bout?”

“I’m getting there, Reg. I’m getting there.”

We’re there. We’ve seen enough. That’s it. We need — in the same room, ASAP — Michael Jordan, Anthony Edwards and Maury Povich with a sealed envelope.

We’ve got to know.

In the era of touch fouls and 3-pointers, who choreographs a soaring fadeaway jumper as the signature of his 43-point performance? Unless you’re the long-lost son of the GOAT and don’t even know it.

In all seriousness, before hyperbolic jokes trend offensive, let’s be clear. Edwards’ biological father is Roger Caruth and his mother is Yvette Edwards. Pops wasn’t around. His mother tragically died from cancer in January 2015, when he was 14. His grandmother died seven months later from cancer. During the most critical times of his development, his older siblings, Antoine and Antionette, were his father figures.

He didn’t switch to No. 5 this season as a subliminal claim as Jordan’s heir (though 2+3 = 5 all day). He did it to honor his late mother and grandmother, both of whom reportedly died on the fifth day of the month.

So, it must be acknowledged, he has a family. One that’s poured all it has into him, molding the foundation of the Goliathan figure we’re witnessing emerge.

Still, the resemblance is uncanny. The way the wristband sits below his left elbow and his left calf is covered. Just like Jordan. The way each step has a little bounce to it, and how he glides when he’s in the air. Just like Jordan. The brashness of his facade, and how he smiles in moments and at his opponents with a certainty he has yet to earn.

Remember Game 4 against Phoenix? He punctuated his career night, and the series sweep, by taking off for a “Kiss the Rim” dunk over Kevin Durant. You just know, wherever they were, Alonzo Mourning, Patrick Ewing, Sam Perkins and many others randomly ducked out of nowhere.

In his last two playoff games, Edwards has scored 40 points and then a career-high 43. Both produced a Jordan-esque moment to get the zeitgeist percolating.

For some, the comparison is sacrilege. Jordan is a basketball deity whose name should never be used in vain. Comparisons to His Airness can only be sparked by the most miraculous basketball performances. Or, “until I see him drop 63 in the Garden …” as my colleague, Hall of Famer David Aldridge, who watched Jordan live, says repeatedly on our Hoops Adjacent podcast, referencing Jordan’s huge night in a 1986 first-round game in Boston.

The sentiment is legit. Count me among that legion. I’m a dedicated Jordan sentimentalist who regards my youthful memories of his “Come Fly With Me” days as spiritual experiences. But, to borrow from the wisdom of Maya Angelou, when people show you who they really are, believe them.

I began seeing the light in 2021 when he told Stephen Curry to his face he was going for 50. Who does that? Unless …

No, Ant hasn’t yet had that all-time-great performance, not one jaw-dropping enough to conjure Jordan comparisons. But he’s got time. He’s only 22. Jordan was 23 when he torched the Celtics.

And, at this current rate, Edwards could be dancing on the Boston parquet in about a month. Because the Nuggets, the defending champions, are in trouble. Minnesota is a problem. Mostly because Edwards is good enough to match Nikola Jokić. He’s looking as unsolvable for his opponent as Jokić is — which gives the advantage to the Timberwolves’ other weapons and depth.

As it stands right now: Only two players 22 or younger have scored 40 or more in consecutive playoff games — Edwards and Kobe Bryant, the original Michael Jordan heir.

Side note: Michael Jordan’s first back-to-back games with at least 40 came when he was 23. He scored 49 in Game 1 at Boston then 63 in Game 2. I know that doesn’t help my argument.

But the Edwards-Jordan correlation isn’t quite about ability as much as similarity. It’s less a comparison of substance and more one of style. The urban myth that Edwards is Jordan’s long-lost son is but a nod to the sense of déjà vu when watching him. A reminder of Jordan’s transcendence and the sustainability of his aura. Maybe even a mirage crafted by our hopes to see such a figure again.

He looks like Jordan. He moves like Jordan. He talks that talk like Jordan.

“I love that guy, man,” Edwards said of Kevin Durant, his favorite player growing up, after eliminating the Suns. “I’m excited to play with him this summer, man. Talk a little trash. Let him know I sent him home.”

He’s elevated a lowly franchise like Jordan. He infuses his ethos into his teammates like Jordan. He’s must-see TV like Jordan. Increasingly, he’s leaving opponents in his wake like Jordan. He’s controlling games late, bending the floor and the defense to his will, like Jordan.

This summer, he’s going to Paris to play on what many are calling the greatest USA men’s basketball collection since the Dream Team in 1992. Back then, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird were the incumbent superstars. But when they left, Michael Jordan had the throne.

This time, Durant, LeBron James and Steph Curry go as the old guard. Who are you expecting to come home with a gold medal and the crown as America’s basketball king?

Go ahead, say who. You’ll get there too.

go-deeper

GO DEEPER

Wolves-Nuggets opener shows Minnesota was built to stop Jokić

(Photo of Anthony Edwards: Matthew Stockman / Getty Images)

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