Saturday, August 8, 2009

Dear Michael: Please Buy the Bobcats, and Do It Quickly


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It has been widely speculated this summer that Michael Jordan has an interest in buying the Charlotte Bobcats. Current team owner Bob Johnson has expressed a desire to sell the team due to sagging revenues and sponsorships, losses in the "millions,” and an overall failure to become a successful business entity. Considering Johnson paid $300 million to establish the franchise in 2003 and it is currently valued at $284 million, even the simplest financial minds can see that this relationship has not been ideal.

His Airness has been a part-owner of the team since 2006. Although his role of “managing member of basketball operations” has always been somewhat unclear, he has clearly been an instrumental voice in the front office staff of the Bobcats. He has the final authority in basketball-related decisions, but he is not the one picking up the phone fielding trade offers. After a failed relationship of similar nature with the Wizards in 2000-2003, MJ has been moderately successful at this overseer position, even after considering the failure of Adam Morrison.

Jordan agreed to drafting Adam Morrison 3rd overall in 2006 (his first with the team), however, he only had two weeks between being named partial owner and deciding who got drafted, so it’s hard to put the blame entirely on his shoulders. In retrospect, Brandon Roy or Rudy Gay would have been better and more logical draft choices. However, former head coach and general manager Bernie Bickerstaff was influential in bringing Morrison to the Bobcats. And although the Kwame Brown draft pick defines his legacy with the Wizards, the Morrison pick will not do the same for the Bobcats.

Morrison (in case you'd forgotten) has quite possibly been one of the worst players to grace a basketball court in recent memory. When looking at his 11.8 points per game as a rookie, he appears to be a serviceable NBA player. However, he shot an atrocious 37.6% and managed to grab only 2.9 rebounds. He somehow managed to play 29.8 minutes a game, which makes his numbers look even worse. He tore his ACL before his sophomore campaign and missed the entire season. Thankfully the Bobcats managed to trade him to the Lakers this past season, separating Michael from the unfamiliar stench of failure. 

But all past dealings aside, it has been very clear, however, that Michael has been spending more time on the golf course than doing work in the Charlotte front office. This February 10th article in the Washington Post by Mike Cranston states “Jordan, rarely seen or heard from in Charlotte, insisted he's committed to making the Bobcats a winner and would be interested in buying a larger stake in the team.”

This is exactly why Michael needs to become the majority owner. Those are not things that should be said about upper level management. Instead, they should be words that describe an owner.

The average NBA fan can name probably 5 owners. Mark Cuban [Mavericks], Dr. Jerry Buss [Lakers], James Dolan [Knicks], Donald Sterling [Clippers], Robert Sarver [Suns]. Only one (Dr. Buss) has been able to ever bring his team to the promised land and the title of NBA Champion, while the rest are either known for their frugality (Sarver), failings (Sterling), eccentricity (Cuban), or imprudence (Dolan).

The most successful team of the past decade has been the San Antonio Spurs, and 95% of NBA fans most likely have no idea who the owner is. His name? Peter Holt. Who knew?

With Michael operating behind the scenes, he could leave all player-personnel decisions up to other staff members. And play all the golf he wanted to no detriment to the team. He would of course have the final say on all decisions, but he would be better suited to use his fame and personage to gain more corporate sponsorships, free agents, and financial benefits for the team. Michael could use his immense fame to make the Bobcats more competitive and appealing using his own personal brand, which would ultimately lead to more wins.

Much has been made this off season of players campaigning for free-agents to join their respective clubs through Twitter and other various network means. Pat Riley flew to Los Angeles and Dwyane Wade made numerous Twitter posts trying to entice Lamar Odom to join the Miami Heat. LeBron James did his best to get Trevor Ariza or Ron Artest to join the Cavaliers. Ultimately none of these attempts were successful, simply because the suitors did not carry the necessary weight to lure the free agents.

Imagine the influence that Michael Jordan would have in courting potential free agents to join the Bobcats. In his current position he is seen more as a manager than as an ambassador. If he were completely devoted to being an emissary of the Bobcats considering he was the principal owner, his prestige would be of a greater value to the franchise.

In six seasons as a front-office manager Jordan has been unable to lead a team to the playoffs. If he gracefully stepped down as he assumed the role of the owner, he would be able to lead the Bobcats in a much different manner. By giving more power to current general manager Rod Higgins, while still being able to have the final input on all decisions, Michael would be happy and the Bobcats would be better.

The Bobcats have seemingly been one key player away from being a playoff team in the East for the past three seasons. They have been unable to draw in top free agents, secure enough of a consistent fan base, or draw in the corporate sponsorships (and money that comes with them), to make them a contender.

With Michael Jordan at the helm, and operating as an icon for the Bobcats, he would give them the edge they needed to make serious headway and become a legitimate challenger to the Eastern Conference Elite. If he were able to finalize the sale of the Bobcats and secure ownership of the Bobcats, it would be one of the most significant moves of the NBA offseason.

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