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The Right Job for Michael Jordan

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The Right Job for Michael Jordan
Charley Gallay/Getty Images

Finally, the right job for Michael Jordan.

Jordan was formally approved Wednesday as the majority owner of the Charlotte Bobcats. He bought controlling interest in the Bobcats from Bob Johnson for nearly $300 million.

Jordan now becomes the first former NBA player to own an NBA team. Let that sink in.

He has been a front office executive for two NBA teams, most recently the Bobcats, and before that he had an unpleasant stint with the Washington Wizards. But those jobs didn’t really fit Jordan.

The fact is, he is not into the details and day-to-day administration of a team like presidents and general managers should be. And Jordan is often not around the team or the office. No, Michael Jordan is not the guy who should manage the daily operations of a pro basketball team. But he is the icon who should own one.

Being an owner is a completely different role. It can be very complex, with an important civic component tacked onto it. Owners are taking in millions of the public’s dollars to field what will hopefully be an entertaining and competitive team. They also have the responsibility to provide a positive diversion for the community that supports the team.

So while Jordan’s basketball knowledge can be valuable to the Bobcats, his longtime image as the face of a sport and his understanding of corporate business deals will be even more important as he tries to build interest and economic support for a team that has never really been embraced in Charlotte—and is losing lots of money.

Team owners can and do impact a community for the good. Dallas has two such owners in Jerry Jones of the Cowboys and Mark Cuban of the Mavericks. Both men have been extremely successful in making money and improving the image of their teams and sports locally and nationally.

Dan Snyder, owner of the Washington Redskins, might be the best example of how not to relate to a community or his sport. While Snyder has made millions from Redskins supporters in his decade of ownership, his tactics have often alienated the team’s huge fanbase.

That said, I have very high expectations for Jordan in this new role. Anything less than a total transformation of the Charlotte Bobcats should be considered an enormous failure.

Jordan is an international icon. There is no bigger name in basketball, outside of a couple of well-known active players, than Jordan. On the business side, his image literally transformed a fledgling company (Nike) into a worldwide sports powerhouse.

As an owner, this level of power is what Jordan ought to bring to the Bobcats and to basketball. His elevation to team owner is symbolic, significant, and needed. If Jordan does not and cannot leverage his name, image, and impact for good in Charlotte, a city not far from where he grew up, then he cannot do it anywhere.

Owning the Bobcats should be the perfect move for this one-of-a-kind basketball legend. I hope it actually will be.

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