During the initial uncertainty of the pandemic, sports fans were treated to an all-access look at the 1998 Chicago Bulls. “The Last Dance” featured many storylines and memories about the team that captured its sixth NBA title of the decade. One of the unheralded players on that team was guard Ron Harper, and that name is in the news once again in 2022. The former Bulls guard has a son, Ron Harper, Jr., who is looking to have one last dance of his own during his senior season at Rutgers University.
The talented senior has the Scarlet Knights in the middle of the Big Ten hunt. Harper Jr is averaging over 16 points per game, and seven rebounds a night. The solidly built 6’6”, 245 pound forward is a tough assignment for anyone, and has improved each season in Piscataway. He had a difficult choice to make after his junior season, and followed his heart in his decision.
“Rutgers nation, I’m back. One more time. The job’s not finished,” Harper Jr. announced when he elected to return to campus. Via App.com
He’s played like a man on a mission, and made one of the most iconic shots in school history last month. His half-court heave at home against Purdue, who was ranked number one in the country at the time, received all sorts of national attention. Thanks in large part to Harper Jr., Rutgers has been a difficult team to beat at home, and the team will need to use that homecourt advantage against traditional basketball powerhouses.
Before the younger Harper established himself in college basketball, he had a tough time navigating his childhood years due to his name. Harper Jr. would have to work that much harder to show that he could live up to his father’s legacy, especially playing the same sport Harper Sr. played at the highest level.
“He’s been dealing with (his name) since he was 10 years old. Kids would say ‘You’re bad, you can’t do this and your dad can,” Harper Sr. said. Via NJ.com
That inherent pressure led Harper Jr. to threaten to change his name, but the elder Harper has tried to do his best to deflect that spotlight from his son growing up.
“It’s all about him. I always taught him that he doesn’t have to be me. I already played the game,” Harper Sr. said. “I’m not playing anymore. I always encouraged him and I always told him ‘You don’t have to be me. You don’t have to become me, you have to become you.’’ Via NJ.com
According to many sites, Ron Harper Jr. may not be selected in the two-round NBA Draft come next summer. However, it seems like a good bet he’ll continue to forge his own path, wherever that might take him.