Basketball: Jordan the famed poacher may turn gamekeeper
Gerard Wright in Denver reports on attempts to lure a giant into ownership
Sunday 25 April 1999
Back in the banking and biblical heart of North Carolina, an invisible light bulb went on over the troubled head of the owner of the National Basketball Association's Charlotte Hornets. George Shinn picked up the phone and dialled the number of the NBA's commissioner, David Stern.
This was in mid-February, with Michael Jordan's retirement from the game he had graced and recreated barely four weeks old. The league was off to a slow start, many of the games sounded like a blacksmith's forge, such was the clang of bricks off iron as the game's sharpshooters repeatedly missed their mark. Games were being won with force, rather than skill. It was true - you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone.
Shinn had difficulties of his own. His team were losing. His coach, Dave Cowens, was publicly scathing of his lack of administrative support. Two of the best players were out injured for the season and a third was in the middle of a salary dispute. Most seriously, Shinn had a pending date in court on charges of assault and false imprisonment, brought in a civil case by a married woman Shinn met at a drug rehabilitation centre while visiting someone else. She alleges Shinn took her to his house and forced her to perform oral sex.
The woman's lawyers have unearthed allegations that Shinn harassed Hornets cheerleaders and other female employees. Further, according to the Rocky Mountain News, Shinn had a player traded because he perceived him to be a rival for the affections of a cheerleader.
This is an interesting situation for the NBA, who have the precedent of the punishment of Latrell Sprewell - suspended for the last 68 games of the 1997-98 season for choking his Golden State Warriors coach, PJ Carlesimo - to guide them. So far, the NBA's actions suggest Shinn is getting the benefit of the doubt.
Enter the local boy. Jordan grew up in Wilmington, North Carolina, and could easily afford the half-share in the franchise that Shinn is said to be negotiating. Forbes magazine last December valued the Charlotte franchise at $124m. Jordan's income in his final season with the Chicago Bulls was $77m.
There is the small problem of being the father to three young children in one city while running a basketball team in another. On her husband's retirement, Juanita Jordan observed that he would have more time to drive them to school, although her tongue may have been in her cheek.
Jordan's return - albeit in a business suit - would solve a number of problems for the NBA. For reasons of image, as much or more than altruism, they have been trying for some years to introduce black ownership to a league composed predominantly of black players.
Once they shed their uniforms, African-Americans tend to become the fringe group that largely reflects their status in wider American society. Among the 28 teams, there are four black coaches, including Paul Silas, the replacement for the inevitably departed Cowens. An under-funded black ownership consortium floundered during its time at the helm of the hapless Denver Nuggets during the early Eighties. (This was no disgrace. The current ownership, which includes the Australian billionaire Kerry Packer, has fared little better, in the competitive sense.)
Jordan's pending return has been greeted with near universal acclaim. The exception is a man called Bob Johnson, the founder and chief executive officer of Black Entertainment Television, who says he has his money ready, if only someone will invite him to the table.
Chances are he will start next season as he did this, with his nose pressed against the glass. The New York Times reported this week that Jordan would take up a half-share in the team - a first for a former player - at the end of the present season.
Latest in Sport
WrestleMania 31: What time does it start? Full match card and preview ahead of WWE event
Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
Gareth Bale to Chelsea: Real Madrid to be 'tempted by £75m offer' this summer
Manchester United transfer news: Chris Smalling and Phil Jones face uncertain future with contract renewal talks on hold
Malaysia Grand Prix 2015 LIVE: Sebastian Vettel wins in just his second race with Ferrari with Lewis Hamilton second and Nico Rosberg third
- 1 Is this bridge haunted by the ghost of nu rave?
- 2 Woman filmed launching racist tirade against men on the Tube for speaking in 'own lingo'
- 3 The West has it totally wrong on Lee Kuan Yew
- 4 Scientists have discovered a simple way to cook rice that dramatically cuts the calories
- 5 Noel Gallagher: I lost sh*tloads of money, a few million, didn’t tell my wife
Ukip supporters are 55 or older, white and socially conservative, finds British Social Attitudes Report
JK Rowling responds to fan tweeting she 'can't see' Dumbledore being gay
Jeremy Clarkson sacked live: Alan Yentob 'wouldn't rule out' ex Top Gear host's BBC return
David Cameron calls Labour 'hopeless, sneering socialists' while announcing 7-day NHS plans
Revealed: Putin's army of pro-Kremlin bloggers
The West has it totally wrong on Lee Kuan Yew
£6 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a gro...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Service Delivery Manager is required to join...
£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...
£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...