Jordan becomes part-owner of Bobcats

Updated: June 16, 2006, 1:00 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Michael Jordan is back in the NBA, resuming his basketball career in the state where it started.

Jordan became part-owner of the Charlotte Bobcats on Thursday in a deal that gives him a stake in most of majority partner Robert Johnson's ventures.

Michael Jordan
Jordan

Jordan's investment makes him second only to Johnson as the largest individual owner of the Bobcats.

Johnson, who spent $300 million on the expansion Bobcats in 2002, said Jordan will be the managing member of basketball operations.

"Ever since I acquired the Bobcats franchise, one of my goals has been to get Michael Jordan to become my partner in operating the team," Johnson said. "I don't think I have to make the case for Michael's basketball expertise, his knowledge or his competitiveness as a player.

"I am very excited to have a native North Carolinian be a part of the Bobcats and excited to have a friend of mine -- who I have absolute confidence in -- oversee our basketball personnel decision making process."

Jordan, who led the Chicago Bulls to six NBA championships and won five MVP awards, bought into Johnson's existing portfolio. The founder of BET has financial interests in several media, entertainment and financial services, and became the first black owner in the NBA when he beat out a Larry Bird-backed group for Charlotte's new team.

He tried from the get-go to bring Jordan into the fold, offering him any position he wanted with the team -- except majority owner. Jordan eventually passed, citing his desire to pursue ownership in his own team.

Now, with Johnson in the midst of a major management shake-up on his fledgling team, he's bringing in the greatest NBA player ever to help.

"I'm excited to join Bob, and invest alongside one of the most astute businessmen I know," Jordan said. "I am also looking forward to providing my advice, where needed, to Bobcats management in order to put the best possible team on the court."

Jordan's involvement was largely welcomed across NBA.

Commissioner David Stern said he was "elated to have Michael back in the league," while Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban offered up some immediate advice.

"Welcome to my world, Michael," he said. "Get out the checkbook."

Miami Heat coach and president Pat Riley was equally enthused.

"I think it's great. I've taken some heat in this town (because) his jersey is hanging up here in the arena. (That's) only from the standpoint of the genuine respect that I think we as an organization have for who we might consider to be the greatest player of all-time," Riley said before Thursday's Game 4 against the Mavs. "So I think it's great for the league, it's great for Charlotte. I don't know what impact or what his role or responsibilities are going to be. But I know he wants back in badly and I think this is a great thing for the league."

Charlotte guard Raymond Felton, like Jordan a North Carolina alum, was hopeful that Jordan's involvement will carry over onto the court.

"He's known as the best player to ever play this game -- he'll be a big asset to this team," Felton said. "He's going to be a guy who's probably going to come down and talk junk to us a lot and mess with us, but he's a great man.

"I think he'll be at a lot of practices with us, messing with us, he might even practice with us some time."

The move comes two weeks after Johnson began a house-cleaning project that ousted team president and CEO Ed Tapscott, followed by the firings of the top marketing and operations officers.

Johnson gave no reason for the removals, but was believed to be unhappy with the business-side of the franchise because he was losing money and had a very small season-ticket base.

With Jordan now in the mix, he'll have one of the most beloved sports figure in state history by his side. But in giving Jordan the final say in basketball decisions, he's risking a repeat of the same mistakes Jordan made with the Washington Wizards from 2000 to 2003.

Jordan became part owner and president of the Wizards' basketball operations in 2000, and was criticized for selecting high schooler Kwame Brown with Washington's first overall pick in the 2001 draft.

He also came out of retirement and played two seasons for the Wizards, failing to make the playoffs before retiring again.

He assumed he would return to his front office job, but owner Abe Pollin instead fired him -- Jordan's first basketball setback since he was cut from the varsity high school team as a sophomore in Wilmington.

Johnson, who met Jordan at a Bulls game almost 17 years ago and struck up a lasting friendship, offered Jordan any job he wanted with his basketball team that same day.

Jordan mulled it over for close to four months before passing on the offer. He also tried to purchase a majority interest in the Milwaukee Bucks, but Sen. Herb Kohl ultimately decided not to sell.

Jordan had been largely out of sight since then. But now that he's back, he'll have to rebuild a fan base still bitter over the Hornets' departure to New Orleans in 2002 and fix several of Johnson's early missteps.

The Bobcats ranked 28th in attendance after their first season in the outdated Charlotte Coliseum, then moved into a new $265 million arena last season that has yet to secure naming rights. Though the arena received rave reviews, the Bobcats sold out only seven of 41 games and averaged 16,366 fans, 22nd in the NBA.

Even worse was their season ticket sales, which is believed to be right around 5,000 and third worst in the NBA. In response, Johnson announced the team would lower season ticket prices for next year.

Charlotte's product on the floor is also poor. The Bobcats went 18-64 in their first season, but improved to 26-56 and closed last year with a four-game winning streak despite numerous injuries.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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