Michael Jordan has tried to run his team from a different city. He has hired bad general managers and bad coaches. He drafted Kwame Brown and Adam Morrison.
For so long, Jordan failed as an NBA owner with the Wizards and Bobcats.
Last season, though, Jordan finally changed the perception.
He’d surrounded himself with good people, giving them the resources to succeed. Charlotte went a shocking 43-39 and made the playoffs for just the second time since the Bobcats formed in 2004. He oversaw a popular rebranding back to the Hornets.
The Charlotte Business Journal noticed, naming Jordan its 2014 Business Person of the Year.
The Charlotte Hornets owner said during a nine-minute acceptance speech Tuesday night posted on Sports Business Daily website, that while he’s received many awards as a player, this one was different.
“I’ve been criticized in a lot of different areas from a business standpoint, but I take pride in the ideas and concepts and views that come out of this organization to build the type of basketball program… that the city of Charlotte can be proud of,” Jordan said as he began tearing up.
Jordan, with tears streaming, said, “Thank you for allowing me to cry in front of you.”
His wife, daughter, brothers and financial adviser, Curtis Polk, all attended the gala at the arena. Jordan spoke of his deep North Carolina roots several times during his remarks, noting he was born in Brooklyn but grew up in Wilmington. In college, Jordan led UNC Chapel Hill to a national championship as a freshman in 1982.
“I’m sort of emotional,” Jordan said. “I take great pride in something the city of Charlotte can feel proud of.”
I’m surprised Jordan didn’t belittle everyone who ever criticized his management, a la his Hall of Fame speech. But it’s clear Jordan cares about succeeding in this field, too. That passion has just taken a different form.
Though Jordan has improved as an owner, it’s too soon to say he’s turned a corner.
The Hornets are 17-25 and out of playoff position. Their big offseason acquisition, Lance Stephenson, has been a bust. Charlotte was projected to lose $34 million in basketball operations last season.
He’s still establishing his value as an owner, but his 2014 success gave us a peak into his mindset for the process.