Bobcats Owner, Michael Jordan, No Lockout Savior


We all love Michael Jordan.  If you’re older than 12, he’s the greatest basketball player of your lifetime.  If I say “Like Mike,” you’d likely get a song in your head from the Gatorade commercial.  Then again, if you’re under 20 or so, you might say “Oh snap, that’s that movie with Lil’ Bow Wow!”  The man continues to interject into our life on a daily basis, whether it’s that commercial with his odd “hitler” mustache, hocking underwear or in one of the many replays of his movie Space Jam.  Mostly, for me and many fans of my favorite team, he’s the owner of the Charlotte Bobcats.

Jordan is sort of like the song “Rockin’ Robin.”  That song was written back in the 1950’s or something, became a hit in ’58 and then over again in 1972 by “little” Michael Jackson.  It was even performed by the Dr. Teeth and Electric Mayhem on the Muppet Show.  It’s one of those songs that you’ll see on kid’s music, because it’s public domain.  Michael Jordan is kind of like that to many people.  He’s been a part of our lives, and for many of us, a big part, for so long and he’s made the money and we figure he’s sort of “ours.”

When MJ joined the Bobcats as a minority owner and Director of Basketball Operations or whatever his title was, the city of Charlotte and Bobcats fans thought he was even more “ours.”  This is sort of an odd concept to me.  While I agree that Michael Jordan is larger than life and casts his shadow over the entire NBA, he’s a big deal and he impacts everything he touches; I just can’t believe that people tend to expect and even demand certain things out of him.

I can remember the specific term used by sports-talk radio and bloggers when they’d complain about Jordan’s distance in his first few years with the Bobcats:  “show pony.”  Jordan or someone in the Bobcats organization must have told those guys “MJ is not here to be anyone’s show pony.”  Or “we’re not going to trot him out like a show pony.”  People wanted to see him.  When he was minority owner, he watched games from one of the luxury suites.  He didn’t go on TV, radio or talk to Rick Bonnell or anyone at the Observer.  People took this for a lack of interest.  His first draft pick with the team was Adam Morrison and the joke was that he was out on the golf course and said “Oh, I don’t know; take that long haired white kid from Gonzaga.”

I don’t know what people really expected.  Maybe they wanted Jordan down on the corner of Trade and Tyron taking photos and signing autographs with anyone who bought a ticket to the game.  Maybe they wanted him in the media, commenting on every little thing, every game and issue that came up.  I don’t know, maybe they just expected MJ to be there and give some one-on-one interviews on a regular basis.

He didn’t do any of that.  He still doesn’t in his role as majority owner.  He’s at most home games on the end of the bench wearing out referees and coaching up whatever player ends up sitting beside him.  He gives a few interviews a year, mostly to a group of media members and he’ll participate in press conferences from time to time.  You’ll even see him at practices and draft workouts, but he still seems distant and detached.  Maybe it’s because he’s Michael Jordan, and oh yeah, did you know he owned the Bobcats?  The Bobcats are a small corner of the world we think he takes up.

He’s not like the King or Queen of England, a figure head at this point that is actually public domain, whose bills are paid through taxes.  He’s a businessman and a celebrity.  A former athlete and product endorser.  Michael Jordan is a man who is beholden to no one but himself and whatever shareholders he might answer to based on contracts and agreements.

This is what bothers me when I see demands or pleas or whatever you want to call them from the media on Michael Jordan.  Marc Spears of Yahoo! Sports is probably the loudest and most complete request for Jordan to intervene in the lockout proceedings.  The logic is great:  Jordan is the only guy to have been on both sides of this coin.  He was a player for 15 seasons, with time off in ’93-’94 and three years between stints with the Bulls and Wizards.  He was a general manager and partner with the Wizards in those intervening years and now with his time in Charlotte, he’s seen the game from all sides.  I can appreciate wanting that perspective in the meeting room, but probably not in the person that perspective is coming from.

One thing everyone seems to forget when they’re clamoring for Jordan to join in and fix things is that he’s first and foremost a competitor.  The man doesn’t join something he can’t win and he can’t win if he were to jump headlong into the CBA discussions.  As an owner, he wants and feels he needs concessions from the players in order to be successful with the Charlotte Bobcats.  As a former player and vocal member of the NBPA, his mind may drift to those days and the arguments made when he was a player and the principles won in those days might be part of who he is today.

Expecting, or even hoping Michael Jordan would somehow “step up” by stepping in is baseless on three counts.  First of all, Michael Jordan doesn’t need to do anything for anyone.  He is only responsible for only his team, his place in the league and to the fans and shareholders he represents.  Simply because it makes sense for him to step in and offer his two cents doesn’t mean he should.  On that, I think you can argue that it really doesn’t make sense.  He is an owner, he was a player.  Those dueling sensabilities don’t make for a good combination at the negotiating table.  Third, as Spears admits in his third paragraph, he’s in a precarious situation because of his brand.

Jordan brand has a ton of athletes.  Last year, it went over a billion in sales.  That’s huge.  Some of the biggest names in the league are Jordan Brand athletes, under the greater Nike umbrella, there are many more.  That relationship could color his judgement in discussions between owners and players.  If I were David Stern or Peter Holt, I wouldn’t be clamoring for Jordan to step in because of that alone.

For the record, Michael Jordan has been at owners meetings.  He and the other owners have appointed David Stern, Adam Silver and Peter Holt, owner of the Spurs and head of the owner’s labor relations committee.  That’s their job to be there every day.  The players appointed Roger Mason, Derek Fisher, Matt Bonner and all the rest of the NBPA Executive Committee and each team has a player rep to do the same.  Sure, you can argue that Paul Pierce, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade have interjected on their own behalf, as Jordan, Barkley and Patrick Ewing did back in the 1995 CBA.  This is not Jordan’s place, and he knows it, but he will be there when he is needed.

I appreciate what Michael Jordan did as a player.  I mean I really, really appreciate him and what he means to me as a basketball fan.  I had his poster on my wall from about 5th grade all the way through high school.  I’d still have one up if I had a good one and a place for it.  I think if he put all of his weight and energy behind the Charlotte Bobcats, they would become a force in the NBA.  (I think he’s doing more than enough, and has the right people in place, probably the biggest thing he’s done)  I think, if he got involved in a major way with the lockout, it could help things turn around towards a deal.  Actually, I would hope his special perspective would help, but Jordan as a person would do those talks little good.  He’s not a negotiator or a mediator or any of that.  He’s a competitior, an owner and a winner.  More than all that, he’s his own man, and I don’t think anyone should be telling any single businessman what they should and shouldn’t do.

Andrew Barraclough is Senior Editor for, a Charlotte Bobcats Blog on the Fansided Network.  Follow him on Twitter @therobertogato and Like the site on Facebook.