In DC, The Devil Wears Jordans, and That’s Okay
Are you inundated with Michael Jordan posts/readings/articles yet? Sorry. If you’ve found yourself here, you’re at the point of no return. But dude is the G.O.A.T., and unfortunately, we won’t have another chance to reflect upon his career this much until his death.
Being a Wizards blogger, I’m obliged to write about Jordan’s time in Washington … sort of. You see, when MJ was playing for the Wizards, I was finishing my last four semesters of college. During those years away from DC, I lost touch with the team I’d grown to love unconditionally. And since the MJ experiment occurred way back at the beginning of the millennium, I didn’t have the advantage of blogs, streaming online video, NBA league pass, and the what-not to adequately keep tabs.
Thus, I’m apathetic toward memories of Jordan in Wizards blue. At the time, I thought his front office presence, and his subsequent comeback to the hardwood, could be nothing but good for a perpetually floundering franchise.
Did I care about, much less notice, the negative aspects Jordan brought to the table? Nope.
I simply wished for a lone playoff experience and rejoiced that the money was rolling in, straightening Abe Pollin’s pockets and repaying the man for his self-financed arena that brought relevancy to Chinatown, but also thinking the additional funds would lead to wins.
Now, knowing more about ‘all’ that happened, which has since negated my outraged reaction when Pollin gave Jordan his walking papers that flew from MJ’s top-down Mercedes coupe as he peeled out of town, am I jaded by the possibly valid assertions that Jordan set the franchise back? Nope again.
Jordan’s time in the District boils down to an all CAPS, bolded, 23-point font name on a cover page followed by a résumé will little substance.
The ownership used Jordan for his name in an attempt to sell themselves into relevancy, with a dash of hope that Jordan’s presence over experience would magically transform the team into a winner.
In turn, Jordan used the team of Abe Pollin, Ted Leonsis & co. as a competitive outlet. To prove he could bring his kingdom to the managerial level, and later, to let it be known that he still had ‘it’ on the court … partially for self-motivated reasons, but perhaps mostly because he loved the game. I believe his competitive nature desired success in Washington, but it also kept him far from it with hubris that clouded his ability to understand that not all players were wired like him.
Jordan simply came and left … and that’s my apathy for you. No matter how much the Pollin regime refuses to comment on Jordan’s presence, no matter how much team managerial custodians try to scrub number 23’s “blemish” with disregard, it will never disappear. The mark serves as added ‘character’, a faded memory. Whether it brings a smile, smirk, or a frown, it can’t be erased. Rather, the experience should be appreciated simply for its occurrence.
Whatever your perception may be, you must admit that it all makes one helluva story. Better my team than someone else’s.
Then there’s the other Michael Jordan. The gambler. The adulterer. The human.
The flat-out jerk who used Washington, D.C. as his playground and the Wizards as his personal AAU team to do as he pleased. He was the king with an edict that all commoners should proceed with unquestioning and unwavering respect.
Any of us could have been ‘that’ guy had we been blessed with the talent to make millions, while wooing men and women alike (for different reasons, obviously), with the ability to put that rock in the hole like no other. But we aren’t and no one will ever be. Michael Jordan is more than one in a million, he is a one and only.
Have you ever seen (or read) ‘The Devil Wears Prada’? Michael Jordan is Miranda Priestly.
What’s a Wizards fan to do? Appreciate the genuine quirkiness of Gilbert Arenas like we’ve just been cleansed in the waters of Lake Minnetonka on a cold fall day (and continue to hope for the playoffs).
Below I’ve included an excerpt from an epic collaborative 2003 Washington City Paper piece on Jordan [‘Air Sick’ by Tom Scocca, Jason Cherkis, David Morton, Greg Seigle, Josh Levin and Dave McKenna]. The whole thing really is a must read, wrought with tales of MJ stealing dates with his simple allure and the help of his posse, including one curly haired Tim Grover and Jordan’s hand picked legal counsel to the Wizards, Fred Whitfield.
Or tales of Juan Dixon dropping what was then a career high 27 points in a win as a rookie, only to have Jordan accuse him of stagnating the offense. Jordan got eight assists in that win against his Chicago Bulls in DC. MJ proceeded to drop eight total assists over the next five games as the Wizards lost four of them.
Or tales of Jordan’s failed local business expenditures, the absence of involvement in the DC community, MJ getting his ribs broken before the 01-02 season by Ron Artest in a pickup game at Tim Grover’s gym in Chicago … just go read already.
Michael Jordan needed one last round. It was late, maybe 12 hours after his now-famous last cruise out of the MCI Center, riding solo in his dark Mercedes coupe. As he walked up the back stairs of MCCXXIII , away from the velvet ropes and the crowd of diplomat kids, Jordan turned to Mike, the bouncer escorting him, and blurted: “There’s a whole lot of hot-ass bitches here.”
Jordan was usually unapproachable, cold even, to the dance club’s help, according to Mike and his co-workers. But in noting the hot-ass bitches, Jordan seemed determined to have a private-dude moment. He may have wanted to mark the night, maybe his last night, with special meaning. If he didn’t have a shoulder to cry on, a head nod would do. Whatever, the bouncer thought.
Jordan reached his floor, the third-floor V.I.P. room known as Spank. He walked past the Abu Dhabi-meets-New York crowd, a row of white soft-plastic upholstered beds, and a bar topped with smoked white granite. He slinked up a short step, past a lighted floor, to his usual table at the rear. He was then fitted with comped vodka and champagne, and joined by his golden-oldies act of Patrick Ewing and Charles Oakley. It was Wednesday, hip-hop night. Jordan doesn’t miss hip-hop night.
Normally Spank was just a pit stop. A vodka-cranberry, maybe a little flirting, and he was gone. Not this Wednesday. Jordan hunkered down behind his new collection of free booze.
David Karim, the club’s co-owner, hadn’t yet heard the news. Over the loud beats, Jordan told him, “I’m out of here.”
All Karim could say was: “I’m going to miss you, baby.”