Charlotte Bobcats owner Michael Jordan has gone from player, to retired player/baseball player, to player, to retired, to GM, to partial owner, to player, to retired, to partial owner, to majority owner, all the while being a worldwide superstar and now he’s become a target. I’m not completely sure it’s warranted but we do know where the story came from. Howard Beck of the New York Times was the orginator on this one. But I’ve seen a lot on twitter over the past day or two about Michael Jordan and as I researched where it came from, I’m finding words like “Hypocrite,” he “doesn’t care,” “sells out,” “hard-liner,” and “conflict.”
Everybody has an opinion, especially when it comes to the greatest player of all time. The basics of the story are, there are some “hard-line” owners that want to hold at the 50/50 split or go lower, some say 47% to the players, down from the 57% they had in the previous CBA. That’s the main sticking point, but you have to assume that if they are “hard-line” on the BRI split, they are likely hard-line on other system issues. Beck reports that there are 10-14 owners in this hard-line camp and that Michael Jordan has emerged as their leader.
Now, I’m just going to say it: I told y’all! I said “Hey guys, It’s like this: Michael Jordan is a competitor and he will win.” I said that back on October 17th, and I was assuming a lot. I was concerned when folks were calling for MJ to join the talks. It was a much more vague assumption that others were making, that because Jordan was a player, was involved in a couple CBA’s, they thought that his influence and distinctly unique perspective could help the owners (a group to which he now belongs) understand the players (a group he used to belong to and still has strong ties to through his Jordan Brand) and vice versa. My argument was Jordan is a killer competitor. That goes for business, basketball, checkers, anything he gets involved in; Michael Jordan will be more determined to win than anyone else.
I am not so surprised that MJ is going after more. His “more” will come either from other owners or the players or, more likely, both. I understand that. I don’t think the Charlotte Bobcats as an individual entity, have done all they can in the Charlotte market. I don’t think it’s about trying to replace income, or to offset loses. Michael Jordan, if he really is a “hard-liner” that’s trying to limit players’ income to 47%, is taking that route in order to even the playing field, or to bring things back down to earth.
The issue that so many are having with Michael Jordan and his stance, seem to be this simplistic view that he’s a former player and he is expected to still want as much as he could get for the players. Michael hasn’t played in 8 years. I’m not saying he’s lost whatever principles that guided him over his years as a player, and as many old timers will tell you, what he fought for even as he retired for the second time in 1998. All I’m saying is, the guy wants to win and wants success for his team. He, like many outside of the super successful owners, is looking for that illusive competitive balance.
You can argue how “competitive balance” is achieved. There have been tons, piles of great posts about how making changes to all sorts of appliances within the CBA, whether it’s bird rights, MLE, luxury cap, whatever. You can argue that teams that make money are going to spend money. There have been great points made about whether things like that will enable teams like the Bobcats, Golden State Warriors, New Orleans Hornets, Cleveland Cavaliers or Portland Trailblazers to compete regularly with the Mavericks, Heat, Celtics, Lakers and seemingly, now, the Knicks for championships. Without hitting the proverbial and the draft lottery, teams in that mid-to-bottom range of income (which is really what they mean when they say “market size”) are destined for the 5-8 spot in the playoffs, at best.
I guess I’m saying, again, leave Michael Jordan alone. He’s not your property. He doesn’t have to do as you ask. He doesn’t have to listen to your opinion. He’s the same as Dan Gilbert, Stan Kroenke, Rich DeVos and all the rest.
The most salient point came from Larry Coon of TrueHoop, HoopsWorld and his famous FAQ. When asked if he had a problem with Michael Jordan taking a hard stance, he responded “Nope. People point out the irony given his comment to Pollin 12 years ago, but that just makes his current stance ironic, not imprudent. I think even he admitted it was a stupid thing to say then.”
Jordan, as a player once told Wizards owner, Abe Pollin “If you can’t make a profit, you should sell your team.” A lot of people think that Jordan’s decision to face down the players and take this “hard-line” stance is because he’s losing money with the Bobcats and doesn’t want to keep dumping money into it, and wants concessions from the players to invest rather than his own money. I disagree. I think I can deduce, from watching the man for most of my life and studying his time as an owner of the Bobcats, that he’s not out to hurt someone else for his own gain. Instead, he’s trying his hardest to keep a system alive that was stunted in his favor before and has only gotten worse from the waning years of his career until today.
I think he also wants to “get, while the gettin’ is good.” If the players aren’t willing to accept a deal now, in order to pull in another $40 million per percentage point, why not go deeper. It’s sort of like what he did to the Bobcats last season. Yeah you could make the playoffs with Gerald Wallace and Stephen Jackson. But you could just make the playoffs, and that kinda sucks. Getting bounced in the first round of the whole deal only gets you 2 extra games at home and a slight bump in your percieved status as a franchise. It hurts the team in the long run, ensuring a higher draft pick and raising the profile of the players who “got you there” thus making their price tag go up. Instead, like Jack Donaghy told Liz Lemon: “Lemon, let me tell you a little story. It was 1994, and I was ice climbing when I fell into a crevasse and hurt my leg. There was only one way out, so fighting every natural instinct I have, I did the thing I hated the most. I climbed down into the darkness. And when I came back to camp, I went to the person who cut my line and said, “Connie Chung, you saved my life.”
That’s what I would do if I were an owner that was at a distinct disadvantage in the grand scheme. I’d go deeper into the crevasse. I’d weaken the players, because they might think they’re losing 10% of their BRI, but in the context of their careers, a half a season is 10% of an individual player’s career, a full season, 20%. That’s why the owners will win no matter what.
Just for discussion’s sake, let’s say it’s all proselytizing. Let’s just be really damn cynical about the whole deal and say that, yes, as Beck puts forth himself, the whole thing is a rouse to get the other side to cave. The story on Thursday and Friday about conference calls among all-star players and an anti-trust lawyer about decertification was what precipitated the owners to come up with this story. Now, they’re bringing in Paul Allen. I’d be intimidated if the 23rd richest dude in America and the Greatest Basketball Player ever walked into the room and the word was they weren’t really willing to take the 50/50 deal that had been the previous offer, they wanted you to get 47% and they were willing to let it roll on into the winter before they let you sniff their facilities. I’d take whatever the next offer was before that possible faction behind me was about to decertify.
Legit or not, meaningful or not, Michael Jordan is now involved. He’s there, he’s in the room, he’s arguing for the owners’ side. Hard-line, which I would assume about anyone in a negotiation would be to an extent, is something I would have hoped to see and hear about back in the summer, not on the night the Bobcats were supposed to be playing the Grizzlies.