Nearly 28 years to the day that he returned from his first retirement from basketball, there are reports Michael Jordan will be sharing his majority share in the Charlotte Hornets franchise. Jordan purchased the majority share from Robert Johnson, the NBA’s first majority Black owner. Jordan took control in 2010 for $275 million. Jordan has had only three seasons above .500 as the owner of the franchise.
Routinely called the best player to ever play, the native North Carolinian has had far more difficulty winning as an executive than as a player. Before his stint as owner of the Charlotte basketball franchise, he was an owner and general manager of the Washington Wizards. Before his last basketball-playing unretirement, he infamously drafted Kwame Brown 1st overall in 2001. The pick has largely been considered to be one of the worst first picks in recent memory. Though his franchise’s recent selection of former Rookie-of-the-year and All-Star LaMelo Ball should help salve that particular career wound.
What is Michael Jordan’s legacy as an NBA owner?
Jordan’s importance as a franchise owner is larger than solely his record. Jordan is the only Black majority owner in the major professional North American sports. The fact that the franchise has now had two Black majority owners is as remarkable as it is troubling in its unprecedented duplication.
Jordan’s story has been an important one for the NBA. A world-famous and accomplished player becoming a franchise owner is a testament to the transitive powers of the league. The league helped Jordan become a billionaire and now he is one of them. He’s likely the most famous franchise owner in all of sports. His presence alongside the rest was positive for all involved.
Jordan also served an important purpose in collective bargaining during the last collective bargaining negotiations. NBA commissioner Adam Silver credited Jordan with easing discussions between the NBPA and the other owners. Specifically, Silver referenced Jordan’s dynamic perspective—first as a player, and then owner. He was also crucial within the ownership group, as a powerful representative of the small market teams and helping to ensure that their unique needs and voices were heard.
Whatever shortcomings Jordan has had as head of personnel acquisition, he has been incredibly important to the overall benefit of the league. What’s more, what would have occurred if the Hornets had had healthier seasons recently? What if, instead of playing in the play-in games the last two seasons, they would’ve won a handful more games and made the actual postseason? Would Jordan still be selling his majority share of the team? Will he feel a need to continue the legacy of Black ownership in Charlotte?
There are lots of questions that will be asked and (perhaps) answered over the remaining balance of Jordan’s time as the head person in charge of the Charlotte Hornets. Some will breathe a sigh of relief at him relinquishing the title. But he is, as he was as a player, more than just the title of his occupation. One of the greatest winners as a player simply hasn’t found the same success as a franchise owner. But his legacy will be far more than who was up on the scoreboard when time ended.