- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 2, 2001

Michael Jordan said yesterday he didn't "want the business of basketball to hinge" on him. But a week into Jordan's second comeback, that's exactly the situation for the Washington Wizards.

Single-game tickets for the Wizards' 2001-02 home schedule went on sale, and by late yesterday the team was on track to sell 60,000 of the 80,000 tickets allotted for individual sale. The home opener Nov. 3 against Philadelphia sold out in eight minutes, seven other games also sold out yesterday and a long line draped all day around F and 6th streets in Northwest.

Season ticket sales, now nearing 15,000, set a new franchise record with each additional sale. The total stood at 10,000 before the Jordan comeback rumors began to intensify this summer.

"It's been another intense, intense day," team spokesman Matt Williams said.

Such pandemonium has never been seen in team history, not after the then-Bullets won an NBA title in 1978, not after the arrival of Chris Webber and Juwan Howard and not even when Jordan became president of basketball operations 20 months ago.

"I used to go sometimes when they were the Bullets, but there really wasn't much reason to come down after they became the Wizards," said Robin Kelly of Washington, standing in a midday ticket line yesterday more than 100 people long. "Now I want to go again."

The attraction for the long-lowly Wizards is clearly Jordan, widely thought of as the game's best player ever. But the 38-year-old said he is a bit uncomfortable with the league and team using him as a marketing tool.

"I'm not asking the league to market me in any way. I'm not asking them to put me on TV," Jordan said. "I would rather they market the young guys."

The secondary market for Wizards tickets similarly continued to buzz yesterday. Internet auction site EBay listed more than 400 auctions for Wizards tickets, with top bids routinely doubling face prices of $10-$175. And brokers found little trouble selling even distant fourth-level MCI Center tickets for more than $200 each.

In related news, Comcast SportsNet released its Washington Wizards TV schedule for the season yesterday, with 51 games slated for Comcast and 20 for WBDC-TV (Channel 50).

The number of games is virtually the same as the last several years, but most of the 11 games not set to air on local TV are within NBC's exclusive broadcast window. NBC, finalizing its basketball plans for the winter, likely will pick up most of those Wizards dates, thereby leaving only a few games this season untelevised.

"The Wizards have generated so much enthusiasm for the upcoming season that it's impossible not to be excited," said David Nevins, CSN president.

Washington's season opener Oct. 30 at New York will air on CSN, while the home opener is set for Channel 50. CSN also added the Wizards' preseason opener Oct. 11 at Detroit to its broadcast lineup yesterday. That game will represent the first opportunity for fans to see Jordan in game action for Washington.

Meanwhile, sought-after Wizards No. 23 jerseys will begin arriving in area shops over the next few days. But nearly all of those early arrivals were reserved by fans within minutes of Jordan's comeback announcement Sept. 25. The next wave of jerseys is not expected until late this month. In the meantime, Modell's and other retailers yesterday were selling newly pressed Jordan T-shirts.

"It's been a great day, and really, it's going to be a great season," said Jeff Nichols, regional marketing manager for Modell's, watching a steady stream of shoppers yesterday at the chain's MCI Center location. "When the teams here do well, we do well. And now we've got the town's No. 1 and No. 2 attractions in Jordan and [Capitals star Jaromir] Jagr in the same building."

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