I never realized so many basketball people thought so little of Michael Jordan. We all agree he’s the greatest player of all time. He still out earns every player in the NBA when it comes to endorsement deals, even today almost a decade after he ended his playing days. After what can only be called the “Hard-Line Leadership” role that everyone has pinned on our old pal Michael Jordan, there has been incredible blowback from the NBA blogosphere.
As a general manager, basketball relations guy and now as an owner, Jordan hasn’t had the success he’s had as a player. He hasn’t been as involved or as popular or as much the center of attention as he was when he was a player. Ok, I’ll say it, he has kind of sucked ass as anything other than a player and a celebrity endorser. The basketball decisions have been questionable. From drafting Kwame Brown first overall, Adam Morrison at #3 overall, to trading away Tyson Chandler for cap relief and Gerald Wallace in a playoff run, these transactions have been less than stellar. Hey, I sound a whole lot like a string of tweets from Tom Ziller of SBNation and Sactown Royalty.
I guess I’ll start with Ziller, because he was the one on twitter that got me looking at this story. He broke the ice by saying: “If you can’t afford it, MJ, sell your team.” Which, as we know by now, is in regards to what Michael Jordan yelled at Wizards owner Abe Pollin back in the last labor shortened season. I don’t think that Michael Jordan has any problem affording his team. He still pulls in $70 million a year in endorsements alone, which is $5 million more than the Bobcats payroll last season. It’s not a matter of not affording it, it’s trying to right some wrongs, as we discussed in my previous post.
Ziller went on to write a whole post of Michael Jordan’s quotes as a player, relating to owners’ greed. It’s not an unfair characterization, but perhaps it’s a bit hollow. It’s more irony than actually damning or definite to label the man as a hypocrite. It’s like arguing with your parents, as a teenager. Whatever you’re getting in trouble for, they likely did when they were your age but you cannot expect them to agree with your position on something because they once had the same perspective. “But Mom! What about when you were a kid!”
Tombo Ziller went on to tweet: “Let’s not forget that MJ bought the Bobcats, like, a year ago. He hasn’t lost THAT much money.” As @Handles_Messiah corrected Ziller, MJ took on $150 million in debt to swap minority owner for majority owner with Bob Johnson. He started out in the hole. I don’t know if that speaks to Jordan’s business acumen or not, but he bought the team, which was in debt and probably got a deal for it.
Ziller had a legendary rant, retweeting some views that agreed with his point. I won’t go through the whole thing, it’d be like correcting a child’s temper tantrum one point at a time but you can check it out if you scroll down his timeline to Nov 4. I will handle this single tweet, however: “We’re being unfair. MJ just wants to turn a profit while hiring all his friends, drafting Adam Morrison, and fielding an awful team.” Jordan did have a bit of a cronyism problem there in the beginning. The front office is populated by people who have been attached to him throughout the years. Fred Whitfield has been in his camp for almost 30 years. Curtis Polk, the vice chairman, was a partner of Jordan’s longtime agent, David Falk. He hired old teammate/roommate from his Carolina days, Buzz Peterson. He hired Larry Brown, which you would be hard pressed to say was a bad move, but he had North Carolina ties. Rod Higgins is an old friend, Sam Vincent is an old friend. The Sam Vincent experiment was bad, but was rectified and didn’t set things back much. Larry was around one year too long but was let go before the team got any worse. Buzz Peterson went on to other and better jobs. The rest have hung around and I honestly can’t say that anyone is doing a bad job. Rod Higgins moved up, they brought in a completely outside hire that has been generally accepted as one of the best young guys you could bring in, Rich Cho. Jordan hired outside his circle with Paul Silas, although he stuck his old buddy Charles Oakley in as an assistant.
The cronyism has somewhat subsided, and you could almost argue it worked in spots. Drafting Adam Morrison, I’m not sure it can be pinned all on Jordan. Everyone had Morrison in the top 5 before that draft. The fact Morrison flaked out and had freak knee injuries had more to do with Adam himself than where he was selected or any of that. All I’m saying is one draft pick does not make a poor owner. Fielding an “awful team” hasn’t been the case either.
Enough about Tom Ziller. There are many and much worse shots being taken at the owner of the Charlotte Bobcats. Not surprisingly, Jason Whitlock has piled on, and, if you can believe it brought up race! I would ignore Whitlock, but I got so mad and his shtick is so tired, plus I’ve never mentioned him before, I thought it’s time. His opening line is incredible: “Michael Jeffrey Jordan finally found a cause he can get behind off the court: being an obstacle for any black kid dreaming of matching or exceeding Jordan’s wealth.” WHAT!? Is that what this is all about? Killing dreams? He then calls Jordan “sellout.” He just says it: “Sellout.” I remember the last time I got called a sellout. I was 15 and we were having Youth Council elections at church. A friend of mine was wanting to be on it but didn’t tell me and I was sitting beside a girl I liked just before we voted. She said “You vote for me and I’ll vote for you.” “Oh, ok.” So I did and our votes basically cancelled each other out. My friend called me a sellout when he asked me later who I voted for. He was pissed because he assumed I would have voted for him. She didn’t even end up on the youth council and my friend and I did. It was weird. A weird way of telling someone “You have disappointed me and I think your reasons for doing so are salacious and immoral.”
Whitlock throws race around like it’s legitimately a hot potato. You can pin it on anyone if you are neurotic enough. I wonder if Whitlock realizes that white kids, Spanish Kids, Chinese kids, all sorts of kids dream of becoming an NBA player. Everyone on the planet wants to be successful at any given endeavour as Michael Jordan has been in the world of basketball. Charging Michael Jordan with killing dreams of black kids everywhere is like Kanye West’s charge after Katrina that George Bush’s poor response meant that he did not care about black people. It’s out of place, misfounded and likely (almost certainly) untrue.
I don’t know how to deal with all of these incredible charges. There are so many. I just have this visceral “NO!” reaction to all of it. I don’t quite know how to form thoughts, and it seems those levying charges against MJ don’t either. Petulant children and unbridled haterism. You can’t call it hate. It’s something more immature and less understanding and something very far from rational.
I hope, I really and truly hope for myself, that I’m not blindly in the opposite camp. I hope that I’m not a homer and a Michael Jordan fan without any waivering or ability to question the man. I know this, I’m not on the owners’ side in the lockout. I’m not in the player’s camp either. I tend to lean towards the owners if the question is “who will win the lockout?” By that regard, I tend to accept whatever the moves the owners make. In my mind, they’re the ones that have put their fortunes on the line. Even the guys who have inherited their team could have cashed in. There seem to be no shortage of millionaires, billionaires that want to own a team and groups that put together bids. So the work they’ve put into this lockout, given the losses they know they are bound to incur, in my simplistic view, leads me to expect the players to accept the best deal they can as quickly as they can. It’s on the players to accept it, sadly.
I am all about power to the people and workers getting as much as they can and gaining whatever advantage they can however they can. But I believe that the owners, of all walks, including a guy whose race is different from all the others, and who is the only former player, are entitled to making demands and attempting to make the system what they want it to be. Maybe there is some vengence or vindictiveness involved. I could see myself, as an owner, winning the lottery and picking a guy who changes my franchise forever and suddenly, he is up for that big, big deal and says he wants out and the bidding is wide open. Like the situation last summer, and the Carmelo Anthony situation during the season. I would go after all the control I could get.
It’s sad that so many who, if they met Michael Jordan in person would dissolve into a puddle of goo and become the same fanboy I would, have taken to twitter and their blog or column or whatever and ripped on the guy. It’s a strange reaction, to call someone a sellout and a “cheap, stingy, mean-spirited, cut-throat, greedy, uncaring, disloyal slave to his own bottom line.” I’m not 100% sure how someone can be disloyal and a slave at the same time and I really feel icky when I think about a black dude calling another black dude a slave at any time. All because there is a report that MJ is leading a “hard-line” group of owners that want what they think is necessary to make their businesses sustainable.