Thursday, June 15, 2006

Michael Jordan and Charlotte Finally Unite


Michael Jordan is part owner of the Charlotte Bobcats.  Actually, Jordan is part owner in many of majority owner Robert Johnson's businesses. 

But it is the Bobcats in which Jordan will be the most involved.  He was named the basketball operations manager.   I'm not sure if that's a good thing or not.

As the Wizards president, he made a lot of mistakes....and his eventual remedy for the mistakes was to put on the uniform and play.  Even that didn't help.  So, it remains to be seen if as the head of hoops for the Bobcats [essentially running the franchise] he has learned anything.  If he still thinks his on court basketball knowledge keeps him from trusting people with off court knowledge. 

The Bobcats are in a odd situation, a young expansion team with a new arena and a skeptical fan base.  After being burned by hometown George Shinn and the Hornets....many Charlotteans don't fully believe in the out-of-town Robert Johnson, even if he is one of the richest men in sports.  But Jordan....well that's a guy with some name recognition...especially in the state. 

Michael Jordan is still a God in North Carolina.  Jordan played high school ball in Wilmington....on the southeastern coast of North Carolina.  He then starred at the University of North Carolina....hitting the game winning shot in the 1982 NCAA Championship game.  The murder of his father in 1993 set off one of the biggest trials in the state's history. 


Scott Fowler of the Charlotte Observer [Charlotte Observer | 06/16/2006 | Jordan's touch not magic] wrote this:

So Michael Jordan has finally become a part owner of our local NBA team.

Seven years ago, we would have thrown him a parade. If Jordan and George Shinn hadn't butted heads in the final stages of their proposed deal in 1999, I believe the Charlotte Hornets would never have moved to New Orleans and the Charlotte Bobcats would not exist.

But seven years is a long time. There will be no parade for Jordan now that his close friend and Bobcats majority owner Bob Johnson has brought him aboard as the team's No. 2 stakeholder. Because of the way the Washington Wizards floundered under Jordan's stewardship, we all understand that his Midas touch has its limits. It's not automatic the Bobcats will be one bit better.

Is this a great thing for the Bobcats?

No. Finding the next Dwyane Wade would be a great thing.

But Jordan's arrival is a good thing.

Put it this way: The Bobcats have very little to lose.

Yes, they have a decent young nucleus of talent. But Charlotte hasn't embraced the team. The Bobcats' season ticket base is far too low. Their business side is in disarray.

As far as hoops, they aren't close to being a playoff team. They've got a coach in Bernie Bickerstaff whom everyone knows won't be the coach in a season or two.

They need help. Lots of help.

Jordan takes on the weirdly vague title of "Managing Member of Basketball Operations." Let's call it "MmBop" for short. I'm sorry if that old teenybopper song from Hanson is now running through your head.

What does an MmBop do?

"Michael is not a day-to-day employee," Johnson said Thursday night on a conference call with reporters. "He is an owner who I've given the authority to oversee all player personnel decisions."

What does that mean?

It means Bickerstaff just lost a chunk of power, though he gets to keep the "general manager" title. Previously, Bickerstaff basically had carte blanche as far as basketball decisions. Now you've got an MmBop whom we all know isn't going to stand back and watch.

In fact, Johnson said Jordan will help make the decision as to who the Bobcats pick at No. 3 in the June 28 NBA draft.

"Bernie, in the next several days, will be doing a download on Michael," Johnson said. The owner said Bickerstaff would tell Jordan about all the possible draft picks and their workouts and about any possible trades.

"Michael will be fully briefed and aid Bernie in making the best selection possible," Johnson said.

Jordan wasn't available for comment Thursday night. Johnson intimated that Jordan's appearances in the Bobcats' offices (and in Charlotte) would be only occasional. Johnson also said there was no chance Jordan, 43, would come out of retirement yet again to play for the Bobcats.

Jordan's most recent dream has been to own an NBA team. That hasn't happened. Three years ago, Johnson tried to talk him into partial ownership of the Bobcats and it didn't work. Now, it has. Johnson said the reason was basically that Jordan decided part of an NBA loaf was better than none.

Jordan provides immediate celebrity and credentials to a franchise that needs both. But will thousands of people suddenly line up to buy Bobcats season tickets because they might catch a glimpse of Jordan in the arena?

No way. This team won't engage this city until something happens like what is happening in Raleigh with the Carolina Hurricanes.

Jordan can't just be Jordan, making fans melt with a smile and a Sharpie.

He has to do much better than he did running the Wizards. There must be no Kwame Browns. He must help build a consistent winner.

If he doesn't, the new MmBop will be no more than a curiosity. And this relationship between Jordan and Charlotte, which holds such promise now, will not end well.

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