- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 14, 2003

In Chicago, Michael Jordan is a statue outside the United Center.

In Washington, he is a restaurant (although probably not for long now).

What would he be in Charlotte? A golf course?

Michael Jordan is a ghost, and Abe Pollin wanted more than that. He wanted a club president who was committed to the Washington Wizards, not one who was committed mostly to his own whims and wishes.

That is not too much to ask.

He wanted a guy who was willing to give up the ball, not demand it, and that is not Jordan.

So let him go back to Chicago and keep that statue nice and shiny. He can be the Joe Louis of the United Center, greeting people as they enter the arena. They may give him a piece of the ownership, but, for all the power and influence he would have, Jordan would be better off buying Boston Celtics stock.

In case you haven’t noticed, John Paxson — a guy who was willing to give up the ball — is running the show for the Bulls.

Or let Jordan go with Bob Johnson to Charlotte. That team won’t see a winning season until its fifth year, at the earliest. Then again, that still might be quicker than the Wizards.

None of this means that the playing portion of the Jordan years in Washington was a failure. No, Jordan coming here and, after a year of running the club via satellite television and cell phones, suiting up to play for two seasons was still a success for the Wizards. They gained national attention and sold out MCI Center every night.

Critics claim that all Jordan’s tenure as a player did was set back the franchise from rebuilding for two years. But there is nothing in this organization’s history over the 20 years or so before Jordan arrived to indicate that the people in charge would have done anything different these past two years other than continue to struggle.

With or without having had Jordan as a player, it is likely that this team would be exactly where it is right now — nowhere.

That said, there is no reason to believe that MCI Center wouldn’t once again be the morgue it was before Jordan came out of retirement to play. In case you forgot, there were a lot of empty seats at MCI in that first year in which Jordan the ghost would sometimes appear in the owner’s box. And there is no reason to believe those empty seats won’t return next season, even if Jordan came back to run the team. Jordan the president did not translate to box office magic.

And there also is nothing to indicate that Jordan would have been able to change a generation of futility for this franchise. He made one mistake after another, from hiring Leonard Hamilton to drafting high schooler Kwame Brown to putting together a dysfunctional team that wound up despising Jordan and his handpicked coach and spokesman, Doug Collins. (At least now we won’t have to hear Collins utter the words “Michael says” or “Michael thinks” anymore.)

Of course, now this means back to the old days of the Wizards — foolish hires, mediocre players and now little interest or excitement. And it isn’t easy to defend Pollin, who has run one of the most inept franchises in all of sports.

“While the roster of talent he has assembled here in Washington may not have succeeded to his and my expectations, I do believe Michael’s desire to win and be successful is unquestioned,” Pollin said in a statement he released after a meeting with Jordan.

Also in that meeting was minority owner Ted Leonsis, the Capitals owner and the guy who brought Jordan to Washington and a guy who must now be wondering what supernatural powers he angered.

“In the end, Ted and I felt that this franchise should move in a different direction,” said Pollin in his statement.

I don’t know what different direction Pollin is talking about. I don’t think there are too many other ways to lose that this franchise has not explored.

But Abe Pollin is one of ours. He is a part of this community and showed his commitment to the city by building the MCI Center downtown. He may be a loser, but he is our loser. What kind of commitment has Jordan ever made to Washington? Or even Chicago, for that matter?

Remember, he left the Bulls and Chicago in his second retirement because his coach, Phil Jackson, was bailing out, leaving Chicago fans high and dry. The only commitment Jordan has ever made has been to Jordan — oh, and Nike. And Hanes. And Gatorade. And McDonald’s.

So goodbye, Michael Jordan. This team stunk with you, and it can stink without you.

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