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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The MJ affect

Michael Jeffrey Jordan, the greatest basketball player of all-time, is prepared to take his biggest gamble yet. Last week, Jordan became the majority owner of the Charlotte Bobcats. This is Jordan’s second chance as a front office executive, as his first attempt was nothing but failure.

In 2000, Jordan became part owner of the Washington Wizards. His main role with the organization was as President of Basketball Operations. This role included comprehensive control over all player personnel and on-court activity.

The most magnified transaction of Jordan’s tenure with the Wizards was the drafting of high school phenom Kwame Brown with the number one overall pick in the 2001 draft. To Jordan’s credit, all of the experts agreed with this selection due to his enormous upside and projectability. Unfortunately for Jordan, Brown would never blossom into the force he had imagined. Brown’s career quickly fizzled out as a seldom used backup, never realizing his potential. They will forever be linked together as one of the biggest draft busts in NBA history.

Brown did have the opportunity to play with and learn from a great player. No not Rod Strickland; it was Michael Jordan. Jordan returned to the NBA for two more seasons with Washington. Half the player he once was, Jordan did make the all-star team each season (due to fan voting) but failed to revive the floundering Wizards. Returning to reality, Jordan assumed he would return to his former role with the organization. After the draft debacle and initiating several unpopular trades, Washington’s owner Abe Pollin fired Jordan, ending a dismal attempt of running an NBA franchise.

Jordan has developed a reputation as one of the most fiercely competitive human being’s ever. It was to no surprise to anyone that he wanted to revenge his shortcomings in Washington by performing at a higher level with another organization. In 2006, Jordan became a minority shareholder of the expansion Charlotte Bobcats.

With the Bobcats, owner Bob Johnson named Jordan as the Managing Member of Basketball Operations. Within this role, Jordan would once again have the opportunity to do a job he had once failed at with the Wizards. Under Jordan’s watch, the Bobcats have drastically improved. Despite poor drafting once again, Jordan has been able to make several key moves, such as trading for Boris Diaw and Stephen Jackson. Currently, Charlotte is vying for its first playoff appearance in its young franchise history.

Nine months ago, Johnson, the first African-American majority owner of a major professional sports team, decided to seek buyers for the Bobcats. After losing tens of millions of dollars the previous year with Charlotte, Johnson wanted to recoup his losses from his initial $300 million investment. After negotiations between two investment parties, Johnson awarded Jordan the opportunity to buy controlling interest of the Bobcats. Jordan’s latest purchase was a bargain for $270 million.

Jordan is now the first former player to become a majority owner of a major sports team. With full control over all decisions, Jordan is now in charge. Several questions loom from within the basketball community, the organization and the city of Charlotte regarding the Bobcats.

Jordan must prove doubters wrong, demonstrating the ability to spend more time doing his job of running a successful NBA franchise. He has often been blatantly absent from Charlotte while traveling around the world to golf, party and gamble. Jordan states that his home-base will still be out of Chicago while his children are in school, but that he will spend much more time in his home-state of North Carolina. In just one week as owner, Jordan hasn’t missed a game (home or away) of his Bobcats.

The team’s name has also been a hot topic for the city of Charlotte and its fans. The BOBcats were named after former owner Bob Johnson. Johnson was never a fan favorite throughout Charlotte, rarely attending games and often criticizing the city and its citizens. Considering that Johnson has left a stale taste in the fans mouth, Jordan has left the door open for potential renaming of the organization; this would cost Jordan $3-10 million. Names such as the Cats and the Cougars have recently been suggested. As the ever capitalizing entrepreneur, Jordan might go as far as renaming his team after his own brand, such as the Flight (an original favorite considering the states history in aviation) or the Airmen.

Spending more time and contributing to the city is critical for Jordan going forward. He will look be much more involved than Johnson ever was with charitable opportunities and city endeavors, building a relationship with the once shunned (or Shinned) city. Reportedly, Jordan met with Charlotte 49ers Director of Athletics Judy Rose to discuss developing a long-term business relationship with each other. This would be huge for both, as each program suffers to capitalize on its own community.

The city of Charlotte and the NBA deserves that from Jordan as well. Jordan has the opportunity to make professional basketball relevant again in the Queen City. After the city’s beloved Hornets were ripped away from them by owner George Shinn, the fans have been reluctant to get attached to this new product. Although attendance and ticket sales have improved this season, the team still ranks in the bottom-half of the league of attendance per-game.

Jordan has compared himself to the Dallas Mavericks owner, Mark Cuban. Cuban is known as a billionaire super-fan that will do anything for his investment to succeed. That’ll mean less golf, and more work for Jordan. But no matter what the team name is, the team must progress and produce. To do so, they will need their new boss to be present and accounted for on a daily basis. If able to continue playing well and earn a spot in the playoffs this year, the team will be off to a great start.

I truly believe Jordan will do what is necessary to succeed in Charlotte. His ego and pride are way too big for him not to do so. His competitive drive is still as strong as when he was battling the Detroit Pistons “Bad Boys” in the ‘80s and the Utah Jazz ‘90s. The MJ affect has already been felt throughout Charlotte, as people are actually talking Bobcats basketball. A new era is set to begin in Charlotte and the future couldn’t be brighter.

1 comment:

  1. I don't care what we change the name to -- as long as it isn't the Bobcats. Terrible Terrible name for any sports franchise.