Kirk Hinrich is wearing jordanretroa red shirt that could help land planes, but here he is, walking down Michigan Avenue with nary a bother.
A kid makes eye contact with the Bulls' rookie guard but keeps walking. Men with beer bellies--surely they watch sports--pass Hinrich as if he were litter on the curb. Even a stop at a crowded newjordansintersection brings nothing.
This is strange stuff. And Chicago calls itself a sports town?
Nobody is sure exactly when it started. Nobody can pinpoint the exact game when Hinrich was introduced during Steve Scott's starting lineup call and the United Center suddenly sounded like "The Ed Sullivan Show" welcoming the Beatles.
But it happened. It still happens. Cheap Air Jordan ShoesAnd Hinrich notices.
"It's crazy," he says, almost sheepishly. "I mean, it's cool. You can't help but notice it. Maybe they do that because they see that I try to set a tone with my play and my energy. Maybe they appreciate that."
Hinrich, the Bulls' first-round pick jordanretrolast June, is finishing a rookie season that has far exceeded expectations. He consistently draws compliments from rival coaches and general managers and has endeared himself to fans who like their floor burns as much as their flights of fancy.
Hinrich is a lock to make the NBA's All-Rookie Team. He leads all rookies and ranks eighth in the league with his average of 6.6 assists. He is the only rookie to have a triple-double and leads allnewjordans rookies with 13 double-doubles.
He broke Jay Williams' franchise record for most three-pointers by a rookie and by season's end will trail only Ennis Whatley for most rookie assists. And his steals average of 1.4 is proof positive of the defensive play that earns him the most praise.
"He's one of the league's best defensive guards already," Miami coach Stan Van Gundy says.
But forget the numbers. Cheap Jordan fusionWhat might be most impressive about Hinrich is his ability to mesh with teammates. He has an easygoing manner that suggests calmness, whether he's getting off to a slow start in November or getting bathed in standing ovations in March.
"We've always said that people in Chicago love guys who play hard, throw themselves on the floor, give you effort," says Bulls general manager John Paxson, who can barely suppress his smile whenCheap Air Jordan Shoestalking about Hinrich.
"I've seen it since 1985, when I got here. And that's the one thing we were assured of, that he would fit that mold. I'm sure fans are surprised by how good a player he is. And defensively, he has been jordanretrobetter than even I thought. But our fans like that type of player. It goes back to the Jerry Sloan days, guys who are willing to get down and dirty and play physical and rugged. Our fans can relate to him."
This is getting ridiculous.
Hinrich has entered a downtown sports shoe and apparel store that, shall we say, contrasts sharply with the brand newjordanshe endorses and wears proudly on his stop-sign red clothes.
Hinrich is on an escalator, but he may as well be on an island. Nobody is saying a word to him.
Then, a tap on the shoulder. "Can I take a picture of you with my son?"
Then, near a display for LeBron James, comes an autograph request. Suddenly it's like bees to honey or, in keeping with the red shirt motif, like bulls to a cape.
Hinrich is getting swarmed.
"If people didn't notice you," Cheap Air Jordan Shoeshe says in his laid-back manner, "you're not doing your job."
This, Chicago sports fans, is more like it.
- - -
Some rookies might get rattled after missing their first five games with a viral infection, then going 1-for-10 in their NBA debut and following that up with a nine-turnover effort.
"I really wasn't worried," Hinrich says. "newjordansI wasn't making shots and I was turning the ball over, but I felt everything was correctable. I expected to have a good year. I don't know if I expected to have this good a year. But I knew I could play in this league."
This unflappability is nothing new for Hinrich.
"He always has been like that," says his college coach at Kansas, Roy Williams, who now is at North Carolina. "He's the most focused player I've ever coached. If you tell him he needs to work on something, he'll kill himself to work on that and then move on to the next point.
"What he is is a basketball junkie. jordanretroIf you're going to have a GQ contest, the boy is going to finish last. But if you're going to have a contest for who loves the game the most and who is the most focused, he's going to win."