...and if you're a Wizards fan, you're probably asking yourself, "How should I feel about this?"
How do I feel about this? Jordan the player was absolutely the best that ever lived. He was the most electrifying player and the most competitive player this game has ever seen (or will see). Friends tease me at how much I watch old Jordan games when he was in Chicago in my spare time. He was absolutely stunning.
But I also can't help but feel bitter about his time in DC, a tenure dominated by Jordan often putting his own interests above the good of the team. Maybe he meant well, maybe he didn't, but it's tough to deny that Jordan did not elevate the Wizards to a level that anyone should be proud of. Two straight 37-win seasons are a failure, even for the Wizards.
During Jordan's tenure as an executive and a player, he made the following wrong moves:
- He drafted Kwame Brown.
- He hired Leonard Hamilton.
- He traded Rip Hamilton for Jerry Stackhouse.
- He hired a coach proven to stink at handling young players (Doug Collins), even though he had a young team.
- He forced the Wizards to play a half-court style that benefited him, but did not necessarily benefit guys like Rip Hamilton, Courtney Alexander, Kwame Brown and Tyronn Lue.
- He balked at coming off the bench at the start of the 2002/03 season, instead forcing his way into the lineup and messing up his best free agent's confidence (Larry Hughes).
- He didn't do a great job of sharing the spotlight with his co-star, whether it was Rip Hamilton or Jerry Stackhouse.
Those are just a few. He had some successes, but the bottom line is that he mostly failed. When you fail, you are not retained. It happens to everyone.
But apparently Michael Jordan still believes he deserved special treatment from the Wizards even if he didn't succeed.
"You could've done it differently," [Jordan's representative Curtis] Polk said. "No matter what you might have thought as the owner or owners of the organization in 2003, when this happened; no matter what you might have thought was best for the organization; no matter what you might have thought about Michael Jordan as a player, general manager, person -- it was Michael Jordan. You don't do what you did that publicly to that caliber person. Michael is a great person and you can't think about NBA basketball without thinking of Michael Jordan."
It's this type of arrogance that bothers me. How dare the Wizards fire Michael Jordan! You can't fire the great Michael Jordan! Nevermind that executives who work extremely hard and devote their entire life to the game get fired all the time for moves that may go beyond their control. Ernie Grunfeld's been fired twice, once in an ugly way when he lost a power struggle to Jeff Van Gundy in New York. Former greats like Elgin Baylor have been fired from organizations as dysfunctional as the Clippers, for Pete's sake!
As to Polk's gripe that you don't fire Jordan the way he was fired ... give me a break! Jordan gave up his right to choose his destiny when he went back and played again. Oral agreements between owners and employees are surely broken all the time -- if it's not in writing (which the Jordan camp has never been able to prove), then it's not shady to fire a guy. Even if it is in writing, guys get fired in the middle of their contracts all the time. Just ask Eddie Jordan, who was extended one summer and fired the next.
And while it sucks to go into a meeting thinking you're going to be retained, only to find that your owner is actually firing you, there are more brutal ways to be fired. Just ask Grunfeld. You know how he was fired by the Knicks? According to Mike Wise and Frank Isola's book Just Ballin': The Chaotic Rise of the New York Knicks, Grunfeld was fired at the end of a two-hour fancy dinner with Knicks president Dave Checketts in mid-April. They had a cordial dinner, engaging in light-hearted conversation, and suddenly Checketts told Ernie he was fired. Now that's brutal. I hope Michael Jordan learns about that story so he can gain some perspective.
That, my friends, is why I have trouble feeling warm and fuzzy about Michael Jordan being inducted into the Hall of Fame. It's been over six years since Pollin fired him, and Jordan still can't get over it. That type of competitiveness is endearing for an athlete, but it's pretty repulsive for someone whose playing career is finished.