UNSUPPORTED BROWSER
More Sports

Jordan returns to NBA spotlight, but his motive is questionable

"I'd like to see some of those organization guys step out there and play." -- Michael Jordan, in his last season as a Chicago Bull.

Michael Jordan had a reason to say that. He had already brought five championships to Chicago, which is like bringing five blizzards to Rio de Janeiro. Chicago could not believe its luck. And here was Jerry Krause, the Bulls' general manager, famously claiming that "organizations win championships."

Krause denied ever saying it, or at least he has denied ever saying it like that. But never mind whether he said it or not. The point is that Jordan thought Krause said it, and Jordan was insulted.

And now Michael Jordan is buying the Charlotte Bobcats, though to be frank, we're not sure he is doing this intentionally. Jordan has been a minority owner with the Bobcats for a few years. It is possible that Jordan simply forgot to cancel his order for a new NBA team in time, like when you or I accidentally renew our cell-phone contracts.

Hey, good for Jordan. Hopefully this is good for Charlotte, which has waded through remarkably bad basketball management for the better part of two decades. I'm not saying Jordan will fail. I'm just wondering: What does he want?

I have not understood Jordan's post-playing career at all, on any level. And I'm not ripping him. Really, I'm not. I'm just baffled. As a basketball player, Jordan always had two careers: one as the world's most recognizable pitchman, and another as a player. And maybe his greatest achievement was that he never let one interfere with the other. You never watched Jordan play and thought his mind was on his next endorsement deal.

What happened to that guy? The new Jordan shows up at golf tournaments and Super Bowls and tells Jay Lenohow often he gets a manicure. He has had basketball authority in Charlotte for several years, yet he is rarely seen there.

If Jordan wanted to spend the rest of his life counting money and dating at least one model from every country on earth, then he can do that. But he obviously wants to be involved in basketball, too. Except he doesn't. And now he does again. Baffled, I am.

Since retiring from the Bulls, Jordan returned to play for the Wizards, became director of player operations for the Wizards, got fired by the Wizards, bought a piece of the Bobcats, and hired long-time friend Rod Higgins as GM and league journeyman Larry Brown as coach.

Jordan has become an object of ridicule for basketball fans. Michael Jordan, object of ridicule -- think about that. People mock him for taking Kwame Brown (the Wizards drafted him as the top overall pick in 2001) and Adam Morrison (taken No. 3 by the Bobcats in 2006) and then vanishing.

I'm willing to give him a pass on drafting Brown, because at the time, a lot of people thought he would be a star, and anyway, look at the rest of that draft: Tyson Chandler, Eddy Curry, Eddie Griffin, DeSagana Diop and RodneyWhite all went in the top nine. It was one of those years where everybody was guessing. Jordan went with big and athletic instead of skilled. A lot of general managers have made that mistake.

As for Morrison, other people liked him too, and ... hey, the point here is not to defend those picks or even explain them. They were lousy picks, and it would not surprise me if Jordan turned out to be a lousy executive. Elgin Baylor was a great player and lousy GM. So was Wes Unseld, and so was Isiah Thomas, though in Isiah's defense, his payroll was only $400 billion.

Granted, Jordan's failed front-office moves in the past seven years have often overshadowed his good ones. After bringing Larry Brown on board in 2008, Jordan brought in Boris Diaw before trading away Morrison, helping Charlotte come close to a playoff berth in 2009 with a franchise-high 35 wins.

Last November, Jordan traded for troubled Warriors guard Stephen Jackson, who is now averaging a team-high 21.9 points and 1.9 steals, while grabbing five boards and dishing out 3.8 per game. And with All-Star Gerald Wallace coming into his own and pre-deadline acquisition Tyrus Thomas providing a boost to their frontcourt, the Bobcats are in playoff contention with a 28-29 record.

Still, it wouldn't surprise me to see Jordan fail. And it isn't surprising that he is willing to fail, to put himself in a position to put a giant disaster on his basketball legacy, because Jordan has always been willing to risk that. He did it when he left to play baseball, and did it when he went back to the Bulls and wore No. 45, and he really did it when he joined a bad Wizards team as he was pushing 40.

No, this is the part that I don't understand: Where is Jordan's work ethic? Where is his competitive desire? All those qualities that separated him from Dominique Wilkins and Clyde Drexler, or even Kobe Bryant ... where did they go?

Where is his want?

Maybe he has finally figured out that he wants to own a team but doesn't want to do the day-to-day work. That is probably the best-case scenario. Then he can let other people build the team.

But the very real possibility exists that Michael Jordan is buying a team mostly because he can, and that the next time he shows up to a Bobcats game, he'll spend the whole time wishing that, as an organization guy, he could step out there and play.

SI.com

Drag this icon to your bookmark bar.
Then delete your old SI.com bookmark.

SI.com

Click the share icon to bookmark us.