Be like Mike? In 2011??

Michael Jordan - The Owner!

“Want to be like Mike?” The Gatorade jingle can still get the ‘90s generation excited after 20 years but Jordan isn’t ready to let go off the spotlight yet. How evident was it? He was a key player during this year’s NBA lockout.

Ramblings by UB

The lockout is over. One of the most complex storylines to emerge wasn’t about revenue splits, amnesty clauses, rookie wage scales, antitrust litigation. Instead the storyline revolves around Michael Jeffrey Jordan.

• MJ: First former player to become a majority owner of an NBA team.
• MJ: The businessman that is trying to turn around a struggling Charlotte Bobcats franchise.
• MJ: The legend that inspired millions of kids w/ hoop dreams.
• MJ: The incredibly and grossly underpaid superduperstar of his generation (MJ’s career salary: $90 million / shoutout to Eddy Curry’s: $69 million in career earnings and the corresponding buffets that thrived in his presence).

Can you believe that this guy made $70M in his career?? 75% of what MJ made???

• MJ: The guy that came back to the Washington Wizards for 2 years, sacrificing his body and soul for an owner that ultimately ended up callously firing him. Screw you Abe Pollin! Even I’m bitter about how that went down. (Somewhere MJ’s angrily nodding).
• MJ: The guy that is leading the charge for the owners against the players that grew up idolizing him?
• MJ: The guy that Jason Whitlock is calling a sellout in the black community? (

How did we get here? Lets take a couple of steps back and just talk about MJ the person.

Fact: What separates MJ from the rest of the world is not that he’s stronger, faster, and can jump higher (which even today, I’m not willing to bet against), its that he’s wired differently from the rest of us.

Think about that last statement, “he’s wired differently from the rest of us.” The “rest of us” include the majority of people that do not play professional sports and the athletes that regularly end up on Sportscenter. MJ just takes everything to another level that the rest of the world cannot fathom.

If you don’t believe me, close your eyes and imagine that you were widely acknowledged as the greatest to ever play the game of basketball, and then think about how you would want your Hall of Fame Speech to go. Pretty humbling huh? In a room with all of the greats and a chance to acknowledge friend and foe. Now go youtube how the GOAT reps his HOF speech! He skewered the entire room, including pointing out that Dean Smith made a big mistake by not including him on some Wheaties box from the early 1980s! It was classic Michael being Michael! I loved it! Those of us that followed MJ loved it! All of his friends including Charles Barkley acknowledged that the speech epitomized MJ. The guy is just wired differently.

Of course there is a sizable portion of the public that was mortified by the speech, and in the back of their minds really questioned whether or not they could turn their backs on MJ should they ever randomly cross paths in a dark alley.

Its that sincere, earnest, absolute, pathological disdain for losing that separates the legendary for the rest of the world. Homey played basketball in the modern era and has 6 rings to show for it. How do you like them apples? #GoodWillHuntingSwag.

How do you like them apples??

Does anybody honestly think that MJ has a switch that he can flip regarding his competitive drive? Its pathological! Its with him all the time. I repeat: MJ does not like to lose!

Most of us saw these negotiations as between the players and the owners. In MJ’s mind, the negotiations were between the following 3 parties:

• The other owners
• The players
• And of course Michael Jordan

MJ versus the other owners

So it should not really come as a major shock that MJ came to the negotiating table to play hardball. This was a crucial point in the evolution of this league. For far too long, the major markets have had an incredible advantage with regards to money, notoriety, the ability to attract stud free agents, and did I mention money?
When MJ purchased the Bobcats, he absolutely had his eyes set on these collective bargaining negotiations. It represented his best chance to fundamentally change the concept of competitive balance within the NBA and introduce a word called parity.

The new deal triples the amount of money that is revenue shared. Well played MJ. This is huge for the smaller market teams. Further, the luxury tax is much more than a slap on the wrist and the dollar amounts can quickly become staggering. Teams like the Lakers will have to think twice about their signings, and thus free agents will be forced to consider destinations that were previously only after thoughts. Did anyone really think it was a coincidence that the teams that are perennially paying the luxury tax were also competing regularly in the playoffs?

The result, we actually have a meaningful luxury tax that will force owners to play within the boundaries set by the salary cap system. Note that MJ has hired Rich Cho to be the new General Manager for the Bobcats. R.C. is widely respected in NBA circles and has a proven track record, most recently as GM for the Trailblazers and previously as Assistant GM for Seattle / Oklahoma City. In other words, MJ’s getting ready for war and he’s bringing in the heavy artillery.

Can Rich Cho assemble a contender in Charlotte??

MJ versus the players

The world which MJ created for the current players is dramatically different from the one in which he lived in as a player. MJ, Magic, Larry, etc. were all paid after they produced. They were proven commodities and earned every dime they received based on what they had proven they could do. The current system is based on the concept of pay for potential.

Having been burned by some unseemly draft picks that never panned out (shoutout to Kwame Brown) and trades gone awry (Rip Hamilton for Jerry Stackhouse anybody?). In all fairness, MJ did do some positive things, such as getting rid of the bloated contract of the bloated Mitch Richmond while running the Wizards. However, all of these instances led MJ to lead the charge to take a hardline stance on what the players should be entitled to in these negotiations. Reports leaked that MJ wanted the BRI negotiations to end in a shift from the old 57/43 split for the favors to as much as a 40/60 split in favour of the owners. Its a business. Michael’s got skin in the game, so he went for the jugular. What he did end up w/ is close to 50/50. Not bad for the first CBA negotiations as owner.

On the flip side, now he’s facing a new round of criticism. The criticism that he has not given back to the kids that have idolized him. That he has not given back to the kids that are trying to live out their nothing to something American dream story. That he is a slave to the bottom line. That the only thing Michael cares about is Michael.

He’s dealt with it before. When asked once why he had voted republican, Michael responded, “because Republicans buy sneakers too.”

The most scathing and heartbreaking criticism for me came during the child labor issues that Nike faced in the 90s. Bob Costas essentially said that he was hoping for Michael to rise to the occasion and tell Nike that they could have anybody else, but they would not have Michael Jordan, unless the improper practices were cleared up. Fair or unfair, I remember thinking that I could not agree with Bob more. I wish MJ had been more vocal about various issues and flexed the muscle that he had across boardrooms and across continents. On the flip side, we will never know how much he has done and continues to do. However, I will say that this is the one no-win situation he will forever be in. We want our athletes to take stands, and are the first ones to bat them down when they do.

On the issue of how he should have negotiated with the players, do I think he should have been more empathetic to the cause? I wish he would have been. I wish MJ would have been the peace maker in the whole situation and saved an entire 82 game season for us. However, MJ has a business to run. He has a team that he is trying to make competitive.

Without the players caving some and without the big market owners taking some punches, the Charlotte Bobcats would forever be an after-thought in the big city / super star driven league that is the NBA.

MJ is not wired to accept that, and that is what separates legends from the rest of us.

3 Comments to “Be like Mike? In 2011??”

  1. The Bobcat’s biggest problem has been that all of MJ’s pathological competitiveness hasn’t helped a lick in personnel decisions. The guy seemingly wants all the final decisions without putting in the necessary work to be informed. Hopefully that’ll change now with Rich Cho on board, but somehow I doubt that happens. Like you said, MJ is just wired differently. Until he starts drafting NBA players better than Sean May, Adam Morrison, Brandon Wright with his lottery picks, no amount of wins in CBA negotiations will change the Bobcat’s fortune.

  2. I completely agree with your take about MJ’s competitive edge being overhyped in this case. The guy doesn’t spend time evaluating players but wants to be involved. He goes by “gut” instinct too much … see Kwame Brown or Adam Morrison. I am sure he has a good eye for talent but other scouts and GMs spend way more time than MJ. Not necessarily b/c he can’t do it but b/c he has other stuff going on e.g. Jumpman brand etc.

  3. You are correct, good man. I don’t know if MJ has a good eye for talent or not, but he certainly hasn’t put in enough time to prove one way or another. Now, MJ did hire Rich Cho, a GM with an actual reputation, instead of one of his buddies. Maybe that’s a sign he’s willing to step back into the background and become just an owner. That’d be the best thing that could happen to the Bobcats. However, if MJ’s competitiveness is as pathological as we think it is, he probably won’t be able to help himself eventually.

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