Life is hard for us Charlotte sports fans.
The Panthers have suffered two heartbreaking Super Bowl losses and struggle to string together winning seasons, the Hornets were ripped away from us and replaced with the Bobcats, the most irrelevant franchise in the NBA, and baseball still won’t give us the Rays. That’s why the promise of Michael Jordan — the greatest basketball player to ever live and one of the best athletes in American history — purchasing the Charlotte Hornets generated so much hope.
BREAKING: Michael Jordan is officially selling the Charlotte Hornets, per @wojespn.
MJ bought the team for $180 million in 2010, and the franchise is now worth $1.77 billion.
He was the NBA’s only Black majority owner. pic.twitter.com/5K57hEw3Ca
— Joe Pompliano (@JoePompliano) June 16, 2023
Jordan bought a minority stake in the then-Bobcats in 2006, taking over the organization’s basketball operations. He became majority owner in March 2010.
It was a historic occasion: Jordan was the first former player to own a franchise in the NBA and the first black majority owner in an almost-entirely black league. Charlotte fans believed Jordan’s basketball experience, iconic brand and influence within the sport would lead the franchise from the doldrums to relevance for the first time in decades.
That is not, in fact, what happened.
We often hear talking heads explain great players are not often great coaches and that many of the best coaches had lackluster playing careers. There had never been a trial case with an owner, though. And, as it turns out, Michael Jordan did not possess the qualities of a good owner. (RELATED: NBA Suspends Ja Morant For 25 Games)
Good ownership in sports — often called the greatest competitive advantage a franchise can have — boils down to three things: willingness to spend, making good hires and not meddling.
Michael Jordan went 0/3.
Spending wasn’t entirely MJ’s fault. Obviously anyone who can buy a major professional sports franchise is rich but, as the philosopher Meek Mill once pontificated, there are “levels to this.” Jordan was rich, but only the 21st richest owner of the 30 in the NBA. He simply didn’t have the resources to go deep into the luxury tax or invest heavily in new facilities as other owners do.
God knows how many max contracts were lost to the man’s demons in the casino, too.
On the hiring front, Jordan didn’t hit it out of the park either. He hired Mike Dunlap for his first head coaching job since he was with the Metro State Roadrunners (who I had to look up and are apparently a Division II team in Colorado). His only prior professional head coaching experience was with the Adelaide 36ers of Australia’s National Basketball League.
He then committed the gravest sin in coach hiring last year: hiring a retread head coach with a mediocre track record. The greatest part about this hire, Steve Clifford, was that not only was he a retread, he was a retread of Michael Jordan’s Hornets. In his years with the Hornets from 2013—18 and from 2022 on, Clifford had a whopping single playoff appearance with three total playoff wins. For those of you who don’t know, you need four wins to win a playoff series in the NBA, meaning Clifford never advanced past the first round. (RELATED: Legendary West Virginia University Men’s Basketball Coach Bob Huggins Resigns After DUI Arrest)
After relieving James Borrego of his duties, Jordan decide this past year to give Clifford another go. Whatever he learned in his three years with the Orlando Magic — where he made two playoff runs and won a whopping two games — didn’t seem to transform him as a coach. The Hornets went 27-55 this season; I don’t make nearly enough money at the Daily Caller to drink my way through 55 losses.
Finally, there’s the meddling. Oh, the meddling! The writing should have been on the wall here. Jordan’s most iconic front office decision remains the selection of Kwame Brown as the first No. 1 overall pick in the 2001 NBA draft when he was running basketball ops for the Washington Wizards. Luckily, there weren’t other talented big men taken right behind the biggest draft bust of the 21st century, like Tyson Chandler and Pau Gasol.
Still, this time it might be different, we thought. Michael Jordan has learned from his first stint in a front office! Big-name free agents will want to play for him!
You sweet summer children. Jordan did take Kemba Walker — probably the franchise’s greatest player ever — with his first pick running the Hornets. But it was all downhill from there. (RELATED: Sneakers Worn By Michael Jordan Sell For A Record $2.2 Million At Auction)
Here are the Hornets’ other first round picks during Jordan’s tenure: Michael Kidd-Gilchrest, Cody Zeller, Noah Vonleh, Frank Kaminsky, Malik Monk, PJ Washington, Lamelo Ball, James Bouknight, Jalen Duren and Mark Williams. By even a generous count, that’s four busts, two useful players, one star and three TBDs.
Since taking Kemba Walker, the Hornets have drafted as many future all-stars (one, Ball) as they’ve drafted and traded away (one, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander).
To paraphrase Nick Adams, Michael Jordan does not know ball. He didn’t have the money to spend to build a contender and he, aside from bringing back the Hornets branding and ridding Charlotte of the Bobcats, contributed nothing but misery and pain to the basketball fans of Charlotte. He’s still doing it, even as he sells the team — typing the name Frank Kaminsky makes me want to take a nap in front of an approaching Metro train.
For the love of God, the peak of my basketball fandom may have been getting a Big Al Jefferson’s paint bucket during the year the Hornets won 48 games and lost in the first round.
MJ is the greatest to ever play basketball: he’s the ultimate competitor and a champion unlike any other. But, from this Charlotte basketball fan, good riddance!