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Man behind Jordan uniform faces battles on and off the court

<p>There was nothing unordinary that led to Jeffrey Harrison's sudden and unexpected fame. At least, not to him. </p>

Darnay Tripp

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SPOKANE, Wash --- A local man became a social media sensation when pictures of him playing pick-up ball in full Michael Jordan gear took off.

There was nothing unordinary that led to Jeffrey Harrison's sudden and unexpected fame. At least not to him. When he showed up in Coeur d'Alene on the 4th of July wearing what he normally does to play pickup basketball, his homage to the basketball icon caught the eye of a spectator and captured the attention of sports fans far and wide. Like many basketball fans, the 33-year-old Pasco native idolizes Jordan.

“He wakes up in the morning watches Michael Jordan videos, studies Michael Jordan moves,” said Harrison’s close friend Alfred Byrd.

The infatuation started when he was just 4-years-old.

“He used to take off so fast, flying through players like a ghost just dunking on them,” said Harrison.

It has only grown since, and he is not shy about showing it. He has been wearing the Jordan uniform since 2010. It has earned him nicknames like Jordan, for instance. The response was not always positive.

“They can laugh at him and say, ‘Haha he's wearing old Michael Jordan clothes, he's a wannabe,’” said Byrd.

That was part of the reaction when Jeffrey became an internet sensation. That is the danger in rushing to make a joke, rather than searching for the full story.

“It kind of hurt me a little bit but in a way he's been going through that his whole life,” said Byrd.

It is part of an obstacle he and millions of others in the United States face on a daily basis. Harrison is developmentally disabled. Byrd has known Harrison for 20 years and seen the challenges he faces. From not being able to have a job, to the criticism that comes when he is doing what he loves.

Harrison said people are not always nice and sometimes he gets frustrated. But, he is never defeated. He challenges the perception of who he is and what he is capable of both in life and in basketball.

“I am a good player, I always have fun playing basketball. I also take the game real seriously,” said Harrison.

It is just another way he takes after his idol. It shows in the defense he was playing, on the video that made him famous.

“I was guarding this guy and he never had a chance,” said Harrison.

It is the most important difference between Jeffrey Harrison and many others. He is going to keep doing what he loves to do, no matter what challenges he faces.

“He's always striving to succeed on what he wants to be in life a lot of people don't have that inside that drive inside to push themselves he's been pushing the day he was born and he hasn't stopped now,” said Byrd.