CHARLOTTE — Chris Paul remembers every detail of the first time he met Michael Jordan. Now referring to him as his mentor, could Paul decide to return home next year and make Jordan his boss?
Paul won't rule it out.
"It would definitely be something to think about," the New Orleans guard said Tuesday when asked about the potential to sign with the Jordan-owned Charlotte Bobcats in 2012. "But right now it's all about trying to win a championship here with the Hornets."
In a phone interview with The Associated Press to promote the Jordan Brand Classic high school basketball All-Star game on Saturday in Charlotte, Paul alternated praise for Jordan while stressing that his immediate concern is the Hornets' impending first-round playoff series.
"I'm one of those people who tries to stay in the moment," the four-time All-Star point guard said.
But Paul, who has a contract with Jordan's Nike footwear and apparel division, didn't mind reminiscing about meeting Jordan for the first time when the Lewisville native played in the Jordan Brand Classic in 2003.
"We were getting ready to take the team picture," Paul said. "I was sitting in one seat and (current Los Angeles Lakers guard) Shannon Brown was sitting in another seat and the middle seat was open. We obviously knew MJ was going to walk in and sit there. When he walked in, man, he just took over the room. And he actually walked up and knew my name. So that's something I'll never forget.
"To have a personal relationship with him now and for him to be a mentor of mine, it's something when you're growing up as a kid in North Carolina you would never expect."
But would that be enough to give Jordan's struggling Bobcats a leg up if the explosive scorer decides to leave New Orleans? It was that kind of sway Charlotte fans were hoping the six-time NBA champion would have when he bought the team last year.
"I think guys do and will want to play for MJ," Paul said. "Who better to learn from?"
But so far Jordan has overseen mostly cost-cutting, including a February deal that sent the franchise's only All-Star, Gerald Wallace, to the Portland Trail Blazers for two first-round draft picks. The Bobcats then fell out of playoff contention.
Jordan has said the Wallace deal was meant to create financial flexibility so they can beef up the roster in the next few seasons.
"Now that he has a team, he's like a kid in a candy store," Paul said of Jordan. "He's so happy because he's one of those guys that no matter what, he can't get away from the game."
Getting Paul would be Jordan's first big coup and would help erase a decision made by the Bobcats in 2005 before Jordan's arrival. Charlotte turned down a trade offer to move up from the No. 5 spot in the draft. Paul then went to the Hornets at No. 4.
"I thought about it then when I got drafted," Paul said of the potential of playing pro ball in his home state.