Jahidi White: Once Rejected by Donovan McNabb, Helped Bring Michael Jordan to D.C.
Jahidi White is a mythical creature in the lore of Washington Wizards basketball. He even has his own tribute page at WizzNutzz.com.
With the impending takeover of Ted Leonsis as sole owner of the Washington Wizards, I’ve been doing some reading/research on his ownership history lately. As a newbie in sports ownership, Leonsis was all about anxiously making a marketing splash with pizazz and glitter — hence, he signed Jaromir Jagr for $77 million and arranged Michael Jordan’s foray as a basketball executive.
Today, Leonsis refreshingly admits lessons were learned. “What I’ve come to realize is there is no substitute for planned strategy and systems, the casting of the team, the development of the team, there is no magic wand. There is no one person, one player that will change everything,” he recently told The Washington Post.
Owners, presidents and general managers rarely ‘fess up to making mistakes. Usually they tip-toe around the issue with all the deflection of an experienced politician — I believe they call it the Potomac two-step. The fact that Leonsis, like Jack Ryan in Clear and Present Danger, doesn’t dance is just one reason why Wizards fans are so excited about his reign. Transparency. In this age of rapid information dissemination, it’s the way to go.
So what does Leonsis have to do with Jahidi White?
White was taken in the second round, 43rd overall, by the Wizards in the 1998 NBA Draft. About a week later there was an NBA lockout. During the lockout, White had a job at America Online where he was a research assistant for business and sports. He said this much in a June 1999 chat on WashingtonPost.com.
Much of this occurred before Abe Pollin’s sale of the Washington Capitals and a portion of the Wizards et al. to Leonsis and Lincoln Holdings became official in July of 1999. Nonetheless, you can see how there would be a connection between White working at AOL and Leonsis, who used to be a top executive with the company.
According to the 2002 book, “Mr. Jordan Goes To Washington” by Loretta Smith, Leonsis hired White to work at AOL to “hold him over until the NBA lockout ended.” This was one of the selling points David Falk, Jordan’s agent, made regarding the character of Leonsis when he first called Jordan about the ownership opportunity in Washington.
At the time, a lot of NBA teams were bidding for Jordan’s services in an ownership/mangement capacity. So, if it wasn’t the Wizards, it would’ve been another team. In thinking about Jordan’s tenure in D.C., which most would agree was a disaster, I still can’t wholly say that the franchise was worse or better off because of his presence … the franchise wasn’t doing all that great otherwise.
But yea, that’s how White indirectly played a role in Leonsis’ ultimately successful courting of Michael Jordan.
Blocked by Donovan McNabb?
Jahidi was once blocked by Donovan McNabb in a Syracuse-Georgetown basketball game. First of all, yes, McNabb briefly played basketball at Syracuse and was even on the bench during the 1996 NCAA championship game when the ‘Cuse lost to the Kentucky Wildcats. McNabb watched his high school basketball teammate, Antoine Walker, win the title.
McNabb walked on for coach Jim Boeheim’s Orangemen both his freshman and sophomore years, appearing in 18 career games, playing 116 total minutes, scoring 41 points and grabbing 20 rebounds.
On February 8, 1997, McNabb was forced to play some emergency center against the Georgetown Hoyas. He came in and got 10 points, six rebounds and a huge block against White that sent the Carrier Dome into a frenzy. The ‘Cuse beat the Hoyas 77-74.
Here’s a video from McNabb’s basketball playing days at Syracuse (famous block not included):
Other Jahidi White Facts:
- On a night where Michael Jordan led the Wizards on a comeback from 12 points down in the fourth quarter against the Cleveland Cavaliers, hitting a shot at the buzzer to win the game 93-92 in Cleveland no less, White was ejected for head-butting Zydrunas Illgauskas with 7:17 left in the game. Big Z was also ejected for his role in the skirmish and was later fined $5,000. White was suspended for one game.
- White worked as a coach at the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament this past April.
- Last summer, Dan Steinberg of the DC Sports Bog interviewed former Wizard/Bullet Chris Whitney who said that he and White were in business together, owning a staffing company and potentially being involved in the armored truck business in England.
- In 2007 Jahidi played an alien named Kronnan in a movie called Showdown at Area 51 with the guy who played Randall “Pink” Floyd in Dazed and Confused.
- White shares a February 19th birthday with Trey Kerby of Yahoo’s Ball Don’t Lie (and formerly of The Blowtorch) and Mike Miller.