UNC’s Barnes responds to Jordan’s taunt

North Carolina freshman star Harrison Barnes said Thursday he knows Tar Heels legend Michael Jordan was only kidding when he told him to wear "Jordans" instead of Lakers star Kobe Bryant’s Nike shoe.

The video made the rounds earlier this week, showing Jordan talking to the Tar Heel players in Charlotte, N.C., where the team was playing in the NCAA Tournament.

"If I see you in them Kobe Bryants, man, I’m gonna cut you right off," Jordan somewhat joked to Barnes on the video shot by Rivals.com. "I don’t care if your feet kill you, you’re gonna wear them Jordans."

The Charlotte Bobcats owner then told Barnes he could wear whatever shoes he wanted as long as the team won, but pointed out "you got killed" against Duke in the ACC Tournament final.

"I didn’t think it was a big deal," Barnes said Thursday afternoon at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., site of UNC’s game with Marquette in the Sweet 16 on Friday. "My teammates all asked if I was going to get cute and wear the (other) Nikes. I know he was only joking, and I’m really comfortable around him."

Barnes came to Carolina with as much fanfare as any previous player in the program’s fabled history, including Jordan, whose clutch shot as a freshman gave the Tar Heels the 1982 national championship. The irony is that Barnes has been compared to Jordan since before he signed with North Carolina in 2009, which is something he has embraced with open arms. His affinity for all things Jordan has been documented, and is real.

The Iowa native might be only 19 years old, but he grew up watching videos of Jordan that his mother spent years taping. He studied Jordan, from his mannerisms to his professionalism, and has aspired to discover the same level of intensity and focus that carried Jordan to six NBA world championships, five MVP awards, and a wildly successful business career off the court.

"I grew up watching his games on tape," Barnes said. "I really didn’t watch cartoons or a lot of kids shows, I watched basketball, mostly tapes of his games. I think I eventually started connecting with them."

For a while in high school, Barnes, who is nearly 6-foot-9, listed himself as 6-foot-6 because that was Jordan’s height during his days with the Chicago Bulls.

After all was said and done, Jordan promised the team he would get them his rare brand of shoe, Air Jordan 11 Retro "Cool Greys" if they advance to the Final Four. As the school’s contracted shoe provider, everything would fall within NCAA rules.

Barnes said Jordan changed his mind after the camera stopped running.

"He said Final Four, but then he said if we beat Washington, and we beat Washington, and I haven’t seen them," Barnes said. "So, if I ever see him again, I’ll ask him about them (the shoes)."