- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 25, 2001

So what's one more day to a franchise that has been in a state of perpetual famine for years?
Because of a few technicalities over his licensing agreement with the NBA, Michael Jordan's comeback announcement, now a mere formality, has been put off until at least today. It will come no later than Monday, the day before training camp starts in Wilmington, N.C.
"Michael has not finalized his decision," Estee Portnoy, vice president of marketing and client services for SFX Sports, the company that represents Jordan, said yesterday. "Nothing is going to be announced today."
That's partially true. Jordan has reached his decision. A statement outlining Jordan's reasons for coming back as well as his goals as a player was due yesterday, according to a source with knowledge of the situation. However, as yesterday morning melted into afternoon, the Wizards public relations staff still hadn't received notification from SFX as to when a statement would be ready for dissemination.
Talk of Jordan's comeback has been in the air since late spring. Since that time talk of whether the 38-year-old retired superstar would return had been constant. Jordan all but put the doubt to rest about two weeks ago when he told a group of reporters in Chicago he was coming back "for the love of the game."
At that point a news conference had been planned for last Thursday. But in light of the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, Jordan opted instead to delay his announcement.
Now there is a delay of at least one more day.
According to SFX, the statement was not released because there was some "fine tuning" still required.
The primary snag stems over his licensing agreement with the league. Because of his immense popularity and the willingness of fans to buy nearly anything bearing his name or likeness, Jordan has held a separate licensing deal with the NBA since 1992. The deal pays Jordan a royalty above any other player in the league.
League sources last night were not certain whether Jordan would want to alter the arrangement that has worked phenomenally well for both sides for nine years. But given that Jordan's comeback will start a stampede for Wizards No. 23 jerseys and similar merchandise, industry sources said Jordan and SFX officials are reviewing the arrangement to ensure it will still work to his benefit.
One aspect that had been unclear about Jordan's comeback was how his ownership claim estimated at 6 percent would be handled. It is against NBA rules for owners to play in the league. However, it appears that hurdle has been cleared. According to sources with knowledge of the discussions, Ted Leonsis, owner of the Washington Capitals and a minority owner of the Washington Wizards, will buy back Jordan's percentage, which Jordan acquired in January 2000.
Such a mechanism was used in Magic Johnson's comeback to the league in 1996.
Another part of the deal that needed some clarity was whether Jordan would be able to keep his title as president of basketball operations while playing for the team. As president, Jordan has had the final say in all basketball decisions. However, a league source yesterday said the issue had been dealt with and that Jordan and the league agreed he would relinquish, at least for now, the title.
"That's not a big hurdle at all," the league source said, "and it definitely wouldn't have been a snag in the process of getting this done."
One thing is certain: Jordan will be near impossible to pin down for the next few days. He has opted to avoid the media spotlight, planning instead to address his comeback perhaps at length at the Wizards' Media Day on Monday at MCI Center.
* Staff writer Eric Fisher contributed to this report. .

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