- Marc Stein, ESPN Senior Writer
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Those who know Michael Jordan best always have maintained that Jordan would never return to an NBA franchise unless he had full operational control.
Three fruitless years trying to secure that level of autonomy -- combined with the offer of full authority over basketball decisions in his home state -- have softened that stance.
Bob Johnson remains the majority owner of the Charlotte Bobcats and insists that "I will always be the majority owner of the Charlotte Bobcats."
Yet Johnson also insists His Airness, as of Thursday night, will have final say on all the roster calls in Charlotte.
Which was enough to persuade MJ to halt his NBA exile.
"He is an owner who I have given the authority to oversee all of [our] player-personnel decisions," Johnson announced.
Jordan's longtime friendship with Johnson, along with the grudging realization that his dream of majority ownership was not getting any closer to reality even with commissioner David Stern acting as a lead facilitator, persuaded him to believe that promise.
Jordan, remember, was ousted by Washington Wizards owner Abe Pollin in May 2003, shortly after his final two-year comeback as a player. Those were the only two seasons in Jordan's magical career that he missed the playoffs, but he made the Wiz financially viable and believed he'd be returning to his original president of basketball operations job with the Wiz ... only to be dumped by Pollin, a rejection Jordan hadn't seen the likes of since his failure to make the high school varsity as a sophomore.
Fact is, though, that Jordan -- shocked and used as he felt by the manner of his ouster -- never wielded as much control in the nation's capital as he hoped for. Even during his presidential reign from January 2000 to September 2001, Jordan had to go to Pollin for final approval on any move.
Now Jordan is Mr. Final Approval for Bobcats coach-general manager Bernie Bickerstaff, starting with the June 28 draft.
"It's real simple," said Johnson, who has been trying to make Jordan part of the NBA's North Carolina entry since the day he left the Wiz.
"Michael is an owner. Bernie is the general manager and head coach. General managers and coaches report to owners. Michael has the decision-making authority."
It's not everything Jordan wanted, and it won't satisfy all Johnson's fantasies, either, after two years of financial struggle for the expansion franchise.
"There is no chance," Johnson confirmed, "of Michael playing for the Bobcats."
That said ...
Finally persuading the legendary Tar Heel to seize the chance to run Charlotte's front office isn't a bad fallback.
For either of them.
Marc Stein is the senior NBA writer for ESPN.com. To e-mail him, click here.
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