A Breath of Fresh AIR

There wont be much H.O.R.S.E.-ing around now that he has the reins

Late Wednesday night, it happened. The North Carolina legend entrenched his roots ever deeper into the state he loves. The NBA’s Board of Governors approved a bid of $275 million to purchase the Charlotte Bobcats by Michael Jordan. Yes, his Airness is now the majority owner of the franchise, making him the first ex-player to become a majority owner. Jordan is accustomed to firsts. His entire career has been full of firsts; however, with every first he performed he also would have the final word. Before becoming majority owner, Jordan held the final say on all basketball related operations with the Bobcats since 2006. It has been his team for a while, just not in name.

With the purchase comes speculation, especially surrounding how well the team (a perpetually losing one that hemorrhages money) will do now under Jordan’s leadership. Many doubt that he can, assuming he is more consumed with his handicap on the links than he is with front office of the Bobcats. “I’ve never been asked to be out at the forefront of an organization. I never had the financial commitment to do that. Now I have. Now I’m involved. How can I not, when I’m owning 80 percent of the basketball team, not put my face on the organization?” It is still amazing that people doubt him and his resolve to win and perform at the highest level. They said he could never beat the “Bad Boys” of Detroit. He did. They said his defense wasn’t good enough. He won the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year Award. They said he couldn’t play baseball. They were partially right, but he had the guts to try it. They said he couldn’t come back and win again. He did. Michael Jordan has spent his entire career proving doubters wrong, and not just wrong, downright unthinkably wrong. It can be taken as a given that he will perform with the same motivation as the owner of the Bobcats. “I’ve dealt with criticism my whole career,” Jordan said, “and each and every time it’s been a motivating factor for me.”

He does inherit some turmoil coming into the deal on several fronts. The question of what Larry Brown, the head coach of the team will do is the most glaring issue Jordan faces. It has been rumored that Brown might leave and take the coaching job with the Clippers or the 76ers despite having two years left on his contract. Also, Jordan was forced to take on $150 million in debt upon purchasing the team. Attendance is terrible for the Bobcats this season, as it has been their short history, despite currently being in playoff contention for the first time thereby losing the team, and Jordan, even more money. Even the team’s name is at issue as many fans believe that previous owner, Bob Johnson, named the team after himself. Jordan’s plate is certainly full just a few days into his tenure.

It will be interesting to see how the rebranding process plays out. Aside from being an expensive ordeal it may pit Jordan’s interests against one another. Will the Bobcats forgo the deal the NBA has with Adidas and go with Jordan brand jerseys and warm-ups like the Tar Heels have? Will their sneakers all be Air Jordan’s? Michael Jordan is a brand and marketing machine and will want his presence known and felt through all aspects of the team. David Stern, who will potentially be putty in Jordan’s hand after salivating and bowing before him leading up to the purchase of the Bobcats, may hold firm against a potential Jordan brand encroachment until the league’s contract is up with Adidas. After that one can only speculate that Jordan and his brand’s influence will essentially be the catalyst which deregulates the league’s jersey and apparel partnerships.

Things may appear difficult at the moment but the Bobcats are headed in the right direction. The team won the first game it played with Jordan and as the sole man in charge. Acquisitions of Tyrus Thomas, Larry Hughes, and especially Stephen Jackson have helped the team maintain its winning edge and keep them in the playoff hunt. If this trend continues attendance will undoubtedly improve, especially with a playoff appearance. First time All Star, Gerald Wallace, is finally getting the respect he has deserved and his play has never been better. With Raymond Felton having a good year running the point, the Bobcats may just stun a top Eastern team in the first round winning more games than they should and playing harder than they ever have.

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