- The Washington Times - Friday, October 5, 2001

We've never met, so allow me to introduce myself. I am a fan of basketball professional, prep, pickup and college. Like you, I find the game exciting and irresistible. Unlike you, though, I've never been much of a player. I'm only 5 feet tall, so I learned in junior school that the most I could contribute was as a referee or a fan. By the time I reached high school I pretty much figured out that you guys don't like women on the court, so I resigned myself to being a fan.

Still, I am no mere fan, just as you are no mere player. You are arguably the greatest thing that ever happened to the game. And you know that and milk it for all that it's worth. So, while I don't have to recite some of your stats and honors, I will mention a few since you are again an active player.

Mr. Jordan, you rank first in scoring average (31.5 ppg), third in steals (2,306), fourth in overall points (29,277), fifth in field goals (10,962), sixth in field goal attempts (21,686) and seventh in free throws (6,798). You retired from the Chicago Bulls and the National Basketball Association after the 1997-98 season having won 10 scoring titles, six championships and five MVP titles.

Afterward, you joined the front office of the lackluster Washington Wizards as president of basketball operations. In that office, you jockeyed with coaches, players and the media, making some smart moves (hiring Coach Doug Collins) and some bad moves (underestimating the value of Mike Jarvis as a potential Wizards coach).

Then again, hey, we all make mistakes. I've made my share as a professional, too.

But I still have to ask you something. I still have to ask you something that has nagged me since I saw you, a skinny freshman, hitting the jump shot that lifted the University of North Carolina Tar Heels to the 1982 NCAA Championship. And, after that, as co-captain and star of the gold-medal-winning U.S. Olympic basketball team in 1984. And I watched years later when you toyed with golf and Major League Baseball only to find out that you excel at one sport and one sport only.

So, my question is this: Is a basketball phenom all that you are?

Where is Michael Jordan, the father?

Michael Jordan, the husband?

Michael Jordan, the son?

After all, you do have three children who appear to be raised by a single mother.

And you do have a wife although after you had made up your mind to return to the pros you said you'd talk with Juanita, whose opinion was clearly an afterthought.

And you do have a mom and siblings.

And neighbors.

And you have a residence here in Washington. Or do you?

Perhaps, having said all that, I should have asked "where" is Michael Jordan?

I hear about you wining and dining with big shots, and I read about you giving money to this and that cause. I see you talking with your buddies, including the two-timing Ahmad Rashad, and Sir Charles never-let-'em-see-you-eat Barkley seems to mention your name with every other breath he takes.

But where are you, Michael Jordan?

You're not visiting school-age children in the Washington area, children who watch you from a distance as I have.

You're not visiting playgrounds, or rec centers, or boys and girls clubs, or teen centers in the Washington area, the places where most youths spend their downtime.

You're not volunteering at community clean-up efforts, either perhaps hesitant to soil those fine Italian threads.

So, Mr. Jordan, if you're not trying to save the Bay and you're not trying to save the youth, and you're not at home with Juanita helping to raise your children, where are you?

I know that today you are in Wilmington, N.C., and that next Thursday you'll be in Detroit for the Wizards' preseason opener.

But is it too much to ask that you show your face in the 'hood practice what you preached about "teaching young players."

Now, I don't expect you to change overnight. I don't expect you to hit the streets between your visits to Wilmington and Detroit.

See, unlike most of your fans, Mr. Jordan, I'm less excited about your potential on-court contributions to the Wizards and the huge bucks you're making for the owners of the NBA. I'm most concerned about the disconnect between you and the potential heirs-apparent on the streets of Washington.

I'm concerned about adolescents in Northeast who can't afford tickets to see you in live action. I'm concerned about Michael wannabes in Southeast who can't afford round-trip car fare to see you practice on the Wizards' home court.

In other words, I'm concerned about the tens of thousands of youths who spend $120-$150 a wop to buy your namesake tennis shoes who work minimum wage jobs and are broke after a week's paycheck. Youths who spend their hard-earned dollars on that line of clothing co-designed by you and boxing champ Roy Jones Jr. Youths who ask their parents to get them boxers and briefs "and let's just leave it at that."

You found it in your heart, Mr. Jordan, to donate your first year's salary to the rescue efforts in New York City. You and I know and understand that a man worth $300 million won't miss a million or two here and there. But that's OK. That money you donated will go a long way.

Closer to home, though, time and fellowship is worth millions to children who have little.

You should take time and do more.

Best wishes for a healthy and successful season.

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