So Michael Jordan made it to the Hall of Fame. Should we be surprised that he didn’t mention Abe Pollin and the Wizards amongst his list of competition fuel? Oh, that’s right, he hasn’t had much success at the management level, so no grounds to prove anyone wrong there. Although, I will admit that pawning off Juwan Howard and his silly contract on Mark Cuban was cigar-smoking smooth. Unfortunately the WaPost’s Michael Lee wasn’t afforded a chance to ask Jordan about the Wiz … it would have been nice to see his reaction to the question in the least.
I still stand behind what I wrote regarding Jordan’s induction speech. However, in discussing it with a co-worker, I’ll admit that he could have been more charming, while still recounting his motivational factors. But Jordan’s message was a conveyance of his personality, and since he’s not some basketball demigod to me, I could care less how he came across … opting to stick with my preference of honestly at face value instead.
[If it feels like I'm posting about Jordan too much lately, then good, we are on the same page. But like I've said before, we really won't have a chance to cover him this much again (until he passes). So, might as well get it out of the way now. And don't worry, there will be plenty on the Wizards of the future coming soon.]
Below is the best of what was said regarding Jordan’s tenure with the Wizards…
Suggested Michael Jordan/Wizards Reading
The Washington Post’s Michael Lee tells of the time Jordan scored a mere six points in a loss against Indiana, but then followed with 125 points in three straight wins. Many inside and outside of D.C. may want to forget his time as a Wizard, but you can’t deny the skills he had in his upper 30s.
Jordan teaming up with Pollin appeared to be a strange marriage from the start. The two had a highly publicized rift during the lockout in December 1998, when Pollin complained of rising player salaries during a meeting between owners and players. Jordan yelled across the room, “Sell your team.” Pollin, the league’s senior owner who purchased the Wizards for $1.1 million in 1964, shot back, “You or no one else is going to tell me to sell my team.”
They were able to smooth over the relationship after Leonsis, whose Lincoln Holdings purchased a 44 percent minority stake in the Wizards in July 1999, enticed Jordan with a piece of Wizards ownership and persuaded Pollin to give Jordan an executive role. All along, Jordan expected Pollin to sell the team to Leonsis, something that has yet to occur more than nine years later. “We expected Ted to become the owner in a short period of time,” said longtime friend and former agent David Falk. “That was the hope. We recommended [Jordan] come here because of Ted. Not because of the team.”
“It was amazing,” said former Bulls coach Doug Collins, whom Jordan hired to coach the Wizards before the comeback. “Obviously, I coached him when he was 25, 26. Michael used to just eat up practice, devour it. At age 40, he couldn’t do that. All of a sudden, you have Michael practice for 30, 35 minutes. You say, ‘Michael, go put ice on your knee.’ Then you have the rest of your team practice a little longer.
“Sometimes the younger players took exception to that, like it was punishment. I said, ‘This guy doesn’t have that many miles left in those legs, and we’ve got to preserve that.’
“That didn’t sit well.”
As time went on, the relationships between Jordan and some of the younger players got ugly, especially his dealings with Kwame Brown, whom Jordan had taken with the first overall pick in the 2001 draft.
Brown is to Jordan’s résumé what “Gigli” is to Ben Affleck’s.
He is, and always will be a Chicago Bull. I’m not particularly a Michael Jordan fan, and I freely admit this. Michael Jordan was no different from the transients who come here to party for Howard Homecoming, or to visit the National Monument, or to conduct business with their legal team at Williams and Connolly LLP. He was a visitor, a business man who was willing to make money and have fun at the expense of the Washington Wizards and the hearts of those fans who follow the team.
Jordan’s greatness was born of getting dirty — rushing headlong into every obstacle in his path. Yet the way his myth has been made, it’s as if Jordan were always clean.
He literally did not know when to stop.
It’s a heroic trait, sometimes.
Of course, the time of his Washington comeback is also the time Washington Post writer Michael Leahy saw Jordan pull an all-nighter in a casino, the night before a game, wholly determined not to end the night a loser. Playing multiple hands, raising the stakes, he simply would not stop playing while he was down.
With his guile and post-up moves, Jordan could dominate a game on occasion. He just could not do it on a consistent basis, which left Doug Collins and the Wizards in an untenable position. They had no choice but to defer to him, even if they knew it was not always in the best interests of the team.
The Wizards finished with a 37-45 record in each of Jordan’s two seasons. By the end, his was nothing more than a grand farewell tour, the competition of the game subservient to the legend who once was.
How do I feel about this? Jordan the player was absolutely the best that ever lived. He was the most electrifying player and the most competitive player this game has ever seen (or will see). Friends tease me at how much I watch old Jordan games when he was in Chicago in my spare time. He was absolutely stunning.
But I also can’t help but feel bitter about his time in DC, a tenure dominated by Jordan often putting his own interests above the good of the team. Maybe he meant well, maybe he didn’t, but it’s tough to deny that Jordan did not elevate the Wizards to a level that anyone should be proud of. Two straight 37-win seasons are a failure, even for the Wizards.
To say that Jordan’s time in DC is of any significance in the grand scheme of things would be irresponsible and wrong, but to shun his decision to come back for the “selfish” reasons of reigniting a passion he couldn’t seem to shake is even more so.
We cringed and whispered under our breath when we heard of his plans to return and called him pathetic when we knew he wasn’t listening. We so desperately wanted to protect his legacy for him that we wrote him off with no regard for the ferocious intensity that made us love him in the first place.
Michael still averaged around 20 ppg in his two years in the nation’s capital. He still put fans in seats and wowed them sometimes too. Jordan gave the players who idolized him the chance to play with or against him and all the fans that championed his legend the chance to see him play again. Michael’s return was necessary to scratch a basketball addict’s itch, but it was also a very selfless run. He risked his credibility and his legacy but also to gave the world a chance to see him one last time. This was MJ’s goodbye. To anyone who looks at this man’s comeback with cynicism, they should remember Michael donated all his salary to the relief fund for the aftermath of the September 11 attacks. All his salary. It doesn’t matter how rich he already is. How many professional sportsmen would really do that?