MJ: Hopefully paved ownership road

ByMichael Wallace via ESPN logo
Thursday, October 30, 2014

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Hornets owner Michael Jordan admits it's been a bumpy road but hopes his path to NBA ownership inspires more former star players to pursue opportunities to run teams.

Jordan, the only African-American majority owner among the NBA's 30 teams, said Wednesday he's encouraged to see other retired former stars exploring NBA ownership and would consider himself a pioneer if a few ultimately acquire a controlling stake in a team.

"In some ways you feel good about it, that hopefully you've paved the road for other players to do that," Jordan said. "I've also paved the road in that [your] criticism is also going to be viewed in a much different way than other owners because of your talent -- that you played the game and impacted the game. But it is a road I would love to see other guys follow. Hopefully they will get the opportunity."

Jordan's comments came during a 30-minute interview with a small group of national NBA reporters before the Hornets' season opener against the Milwaukee Bucks. It was one of Jordan's last stops on a media blitz in which the Hall of Famer and league icon has been promoting the Hornets' return to their original nickname after playing the previous 10 seasons as the Bobcats.

Jordan addressed several topics regarding his franchise's $4.5 million makeover, but the ownership angle resonated in light of recent changes in the power structure. The 76ers, Warriors, Pelicans, Kings and Clippers have been sold to new groups within the past five seasons. The Atlanta Hawks currently are for sale after controlling owner Bruce Levenson announced last summer he would step away after a racially charged email he wrote was discovered during an internal probe.

Former NBA stars Chris Webber, Dikembe Mutombo and current Hawks executive Dominique Wilkins are among those representing a contingent of groups that have expressed interest in buying the Hawks.

Several former NBA greats, including Magic Johnson and Jerry West, have held various minority stakes in NBA franchises in the past, and Shaquille O'Neal is a part-owner of the Kings.

But Jordan became the first superstar player to ascend to controlling interest in 2010, when he upgraded his minority share in the Bobcats and bought out owner Bob Johnson for $175 million. Jordan struggled through a 28-120 stretch with the franchise and drastic turnover within the team before a breakthrough season that saw Charlotte win 43 games and advance to the playoffs.

"Am I an owner that made mistakes? Yes," Jordan said. "Am I an owner that made good decisions? I like to assume so, yes. Based on wins and losses over the years, I've been in ownership, people have questioned that. Now that we're winning, people are giving their opinions about that from a different perspective."

Jordan, 51, said former players who are considering owning a team must have sound financial backing, thick skin to endure criticism and a big-picture outlook to endure the rough patches. Last summer, Forbes magazine reported Jordan's worth recently exceeded $1 billion when factoring in the increasing value of the Hornets franchise and his assets from Nike and other endorsement deals.

"I think you have to [have] forward vision," Jordan said. "You can't just wake up and say, 'I want to own a team.' You have to prepare yourself for that. I went through that road that led to this ownership, and I made some mistakes. But I'm better for that. I'm better because of that."

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