D-League owner offers refunds to fans
OREM, Utah -- An NBA Development League team will refund the ticket prices to the thousands of fans who went to a Utah Flash game and expected Michael Jordan to play in a charity exhibition at halftime.
A Jordan lookalike instead was introduced to face former Utah Jazz guard Bryon Russell in a promotional fiasco that will cost Flash owner Brandt Andersen.
Andersen said he made a legitimate offer, albeit a long shot, to get Jordan to the Flash's home opener, but took it too far by sending the Jordan lookalike around town Monday and building a buzz that the event really was going to happen.
"We're the first ones to say it was not in good taste in the end," Andersen said Tuesday night. "It just kind of blew up in our faces. We just didn't execute it well."
Andersen acknowledged sending the lookalike around town Monday, when supposed "Jordan" sightings and an Internet video of the impostor eating at a local restaurant created buzz that Jordan really was in town. More than 7,500 fans showed up hoping to see Jordan play 1-on-1 against Russell.
"People who had tickets and were hoping he would be there, their expectations got shifted to 'we think he's here," Andersen said.
NBADL president Dan Reed joined Andersen in apologizing Tuesday in a statement "for a Utah Flash promotion that never should have happened."
Andersen really did invite Jordan in September when he issued a public challenge, offering $100,000 to the charity of the winner's choice in a game of 21. The team continued pitching the Jordan-Russell rematch despite never hearing from Jordan after Andersen issued the first challenge.
Andersen maintained he held out hope that Jordan would agree to be part of Monday's promotion.
"We wanted to test the strength and effectiveness of viral media by putting him out in Provo with bodyguards, and some hype," he said. "I always assumed it would be uncovered very quickly that it was a hoax."
Fans caught on when the impostor trotted to the court at halftime. They started booing, then leaving.
Jordan's jumper over Russell in Game 6 of the 1998 NBA finals gave the Chicago Bulls a 4-2 series win over Utah. Jazz fans still insist Jordan pushed off Russell.
During Jordan's Hall of Fame speech, he said he was motivated by Russell's trash talk toward him during his first retirement.
Andersen says any fans who want a refund will get it and tickets to a future Flash game.
"I'm tremendously sorry for the way it came off. It was never intended to play out the way that it did," Andersen said. "We're very sorry for fans that were disappointed or upset."
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press