Daily Sports Smile: How Michael Jordan 'put the beef aside' in call to Hornets' draft pick

15. Charlotte Hornets (from New Orleans): Mark Williams, Duke
Victoria Hernandez
USA TODAY Sports+

There are few competitors fiercer than the one and only Michael Jordan.

Before he became an NBA icon, Jordan made his mark at the University of North Carolina where he scored 1,788 points in his three years and made the winning shot to capture the 1982 NCAA Championship. Legend has it that once he made it to the big leagues, he wore his college practice shorts underneath his Chicago Bulls uniform because he believed they were lucky. Baby blue runs deep in His Airness' blood.

But even a college rivalry wouldn't hinder Jordan's innate hunger for greatness.

The Charlotte Hornets selected center Mark Williams with the 15th pick of the NBA Draft on Thursday. Williams starred for Duke, North Carolina's arch-nemesis.

Jordan called his new rookie shortly after he got off the stage with commissioner Adam Silver to welcome him to the franchise.

"I'm looking forward to it, man. I hope you get in the gym and start working on your game and make a difference," the six-time NBA Champion said. "... And even though you're a Dukie, I take pride in that we did draft you."

"Yeah, I appreciate that," Williams laughed. "Gotta put the beef aside."

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Williams was named the ACC Defensive Player of the Year last season and was a finalist for the Naismith Defensive Player of the Year. He averaged 7.4 rebounds and 2.8 blocks as he started all 39 games for the Blue Devils in head coach Mike Krzyzewski's final season. They were knocked out of the playoffs in the Final Four by none other than North Carolina.

This isn't the first time the Hornets have drafted a 'Dukie' since Michael Jordan became the franchise's majority owner in 2010. In 2017, the team drafted Duke point guard Frank Jackson, although he was swiftly traded to the New Orleans Pelicans. In 2020 they selected center Vernon Carey, who now plays for the Washington Wizards.