CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The history of basketball in Flint, Michigan was bestowed on Miles Bridges at a young age.
When his father, Raymond, wasn’t filling his head of the legendary tales of playing alongside former Utah Jazzman Terry Furlow at Flint Northern High School, his mentor and retired NBA player Jeff Grayer was reminding him of the state titles he won with Glen Rice at Flint Northwestern High School in the 1980s.
Now at 20 years old, the Charlotte Hornets rookie is following a familiar path as two other city legends in Rice and Eddie Robinson.
Bridges was just 6 when Robinson and Rice both played their final season in the NBA in 2003-04. He doesn’t have strong relationships with either guy, but couldn’t get around not hearing about the folklore of them balling at Flint’s Berston Field House and other various spots around town.
“It’s great to have a fellow Flint player who came out of Michigan to play here, who won an MVP in the All-Star Game and was a big part in building the Hornets organization so it’s great to have his legacy here and just following in his footsteps,” Bridges said of Rice.
After his sophomore season at Michigan State, Bridges was selected 12th overall by the Los Angeles Clippers before being traded to the Hornets on draft night. Largely viewed as a long shot to fall to the Utah Jazz’s 21st pick, which ended up being Duke’s Grayson Allen, members of the front office raved about his athleticism, power and shooting ability but would’ve had to trade up for him. Bridges was certainly evaluated strongly even though the move was unlikely. He put up 12 points, four rebounds and two assists points off the bench in a 119-111 loss to Utah on Friday night, including a strong one-handed flush at 6:49 in the second quarter.
Although Rice didn’t speak to Bridges directly after draft night, he certainly watched him fulfill his lifelong dream by entering the league and even offered advice from afar.
“I'm first of all glad he made his dream come true, he is a special talent and will look real good in the Charlotte uniform,” Rice told the Deseret News on draft night via text message. “The only advice I can give him is that now your work really starts because everyone in the league is good and every year there are guys coming in to take your job or playing time so be ready.
“Don't get satisfied just get more hungry,” he added. “Great job Flintstone.”
Rice spent three of his 15 seasons in Buzz City from 1995-1998, where he averaged 23.5 points, 4.4 rebounds and 2.4 assists on 44.4 percent shooting from 3. He recently returned to Spectrum Center on Nov. 17 versus Philadelphia, where he was honored during halftime with members of the 30th Anniversary Team.
Rice developed a reputation as a 3-point marksman and lethal scorer while receiving three consecutive NBA All-Star Game nominations. Rice is still the only player in franchise history to win the All-Star Game MVP Award and even faced Hornets owner Michael Jordan in the Eastern Conference Semifinals of 1998 Playoffs during his Chicago Bulls tenure.
Twenty years later, Bridges is now employed by Jordan and enjoys being in his presence as often as possible.
“He’s a great a great guy to work for,” Bridges said of Jordan. “One of the best players to ever play the game so it’s great being around him. I shake him up like he’s one of my dudes but he’s the boss.”
Robinson, 42, played his first two seasons in Charlotte from 1999-2001 where he averaged 6.7 points and 2.7 rebounds as a high flyer off the bench, similar to Bridges who is currently averaging 7.3 points and 4.0 rebounds with an array of highlight plays already on his resume.
Once Bridges got drafted, Robinson said he knew the Hornets organization would love him because of the reputation both him and Rice built there.
“They know how we’re coming,” Robinson said, laughing. “What’s crazy about Flint ballplayers is that we’re known everywhere like all over the world. If you tell somebody you’re from Flint and they never seen you hoop before they know you got game.”
In 2017, Robinson played for the Killer 3s in Ice Cube’s Big 3 Basketball League, where he returned to Charlotte for a game and is now pursuing personal training in Canada with hopes of entering the NBA coaching ranks soon.
“I still love Charlotte,” Robinson said. “When we played in Charlotte when I was in the Big 3, fans came out and supported and I had some fans from when I played come out that I hadn’t seen since I played there but Charlotte is going to support you. They’re diehard fans that love their players. It’s also good for him to get out there and put that community work in.”
Although he’s currently in North Carolina, where his 1-month-old son Ace was recently born, Flint is where Bridges’ heart is.
Like Grayer and the Flintstones before him, such as Morris Peterson, Mateen Cleaves and recently Kyle Kuzma, Bridges has hopes of running a free summer camp or something for young folks in Genesee County when the opportunity presents itself.Comment on this story
With Kuzma, Bridges, Monte Morris (Denver Nuggets) and Los Angeles Lakers center JaVale McGee currently in the league, they’re carrying the torch the Rice, Robinson and others started from their hometown.
“Yeah, it feels good. I feel like we’re carrying the torch,” Bridges said. “We mention the city on every one of our posts on Twitter and Instagram all the time just to bring awareness and to show where we came from. We’re glad that we came from Flint and we plan to do a lot of big things for Flint.”