At 6ft 5ins tall, it’s not too difficult to imagine Christopher Jullien shooting hoops rather than wearing them.
The Celtic defender is a self-confessed basketball fanatic and has been absorbed in the critically acclaimed Netflix documentary The Last Dance, which revolves around Michael Jordan’s final season with the Chicago Bulls, during lockdown.
It has been a welcome diversion from football’s suspension but also a source of inspiration for Jullien who tries to use the NBA’s superstars as a template for his own professional development.
“I finished The Last Dance on Wednesday and it was amazing,” said the 27-year-old. “One of the best ever. As a sportsman, I take a lot of inspiration from it and learn so much.
“You see Michael Jordan’s talent, how he plays the games, his focus and the way he brings all his team-mates with him.
“I love basketball and I also have the Kobe Bryant book in my house right now – Mamba Mentality.
“It goes through his life and how he plays the game. Phil Jackson, the Bulls’ coach in The Last Dance, features in it too. He also coached Kobe Bryant and says there are a lot of similarities between them.
“You can’t watch and read about world-class athletes like that without thinking about how you can improve your game. They are the basketball GOATs and if you can even take a little bit from their stories, it will help you.
“The sports are different but the mentality at Celtic has to be the same. We need to be ruthless. On the field, you almost have to be someone else. That’s how important mentality is.”
Having joined Celtic from Toulouse for £7 million last summer, Jullien has passed his first test of meeting the demands set by the Scottish champions. The Frenchman scored seven goals in 46 appearances, including the only goal of the Betfred Cup final win against Rangers, and became a key figure in manager Neil Lennon’s nine-in-a-row title winning side.
“I remember when I first signed for Celtic that I was amazed at the mental strength of the players,” reflected Jullien.
“I spoke to Callum McGregor and guys like that and asked, ‘How can you stay at this level of success for so long?’ To become champions is hard but to stay champions is even harder.
“Your opponents come stronger and stronger and you need to increase your own levels. What Celtic have done for the last nine years is incredible and I can’t wait for more.
“I don’t think the season just finished will be our ‘Last Dance’ at Celtic. Definitely. We are all determined to come back stronger and throw everything at winning the league again. We will keep doing that every season and teams are going to have to go hard to stop us.”
The silverware claimed by Jullien with Celtic this season is his first since he was a member of the French squad which lifted the under-20 World Cup in Turkey back in 2013.
While he savours the recollection of a success shared with players such as Paul Pogba, Samuel Umtiti and Kurt Zouma for his country, he insists his achievements with Celtic feel more meaningful.
“Winning the World Cup brings me huge memories, for sure,” he added. “I played with an unbelievable French squad and our team at that time was just the best.
“But I didn’t play too often and although I was part of the squad victory, when you aren’t on the pitch a lot of something is missing.
“This season I played all of the games for Celtic once I got my full fitness at the start. I played in the big games, I scored goals and I really felt like I played a big part in the achievement. To be part of a historic title like this for Celtic is way bigger for me than the World Cup.
“I will always remember the Betfred Cup final because of how the game went. To score the winning goal was huge and the celebrations were amazing. It was one of the best games I have ever experienced.
“But winning the league is an even bigger achievement. It’s about the process from the start of the season. From when I arrived at Celtic, that was the aim and every week it gets harder.
“You have to win all the games and to win the title means so much for me and everyone at Celtic.
“When I arrived at Celtic, I knew that I would have to become a new man on and off the field. To receive that trophy was just the perfect achievement at the end of the season. It was hard not to celebrate with the fans but that will motivate us even more next season.”
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