Jordan makes fans play waiting game

Posted: Tuesday, September 25, 2001

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Michael Jordan kept his mouth shut and fax machine off, and the sports world waiting.

Jordan already has completed the paperwork to sell his share of the Washington Wizards, but the comeback announcement was delayed for at least one more day because of a licensing issue with one of his sponsors.

''Michael has not finalized his decision,'' said Estee Portnoy, vice president of marketing and client services for SFX, Jordan's management agency.

A statement from Jordan outlining the reasons for his comeback was being finalized, and he is expected to make his first appearance in a Wizards uniform at media day in Washington next Monday -- the day before training camp begins in Wilmington, N.C.

But before he can end his three-year retirement, shoot his first free throw or run his first wind sprints, Jordan and legions of lawyers must fine-tune the fine print.

Because owners can't play, Jordan had to sell his share in Lincoln Holdings, which owns a portion of the Wizards, the NHL's Washington Capitals and the MCI Center. Jordan's stake, about 10 percent, goes to Lincoln Holdings majority owner Ted Leonsis.

''My understanding is that the ownership documents are finished,'' NBA deputy commissioner Russ Granik said. ''It just requires Michael's decision as to whether he's going to play.''

Jordan not only must sell his shares in the team, he will have to relinquish his job as Wizards president of basketball operations. Those responsibilities will probably be turned over to general manager Wes Unseld and assistant general manager Rod Higgins.

Unseld and Higgins would be free to consult with Jordan, but NBA tampering rules would prohibit Jordan from talking with officials from other teams.

The question of ''whether'' Jordan will return has essentially been replaced by ''when,'' and this latest dispute over licensing -- if it drags on -- could conceivably delay the announcement for several days.

Rather than be included in the group licensing agreement between the players' union and the league, Jordan reached his own licensing agreement with the NBA in 1992 -- a side deal that would remain in effect for the upcoming season and beyond when Jordan returns. The quarrel that led to Monday's holdup apparently involved amending that agreement.

Many Wizards fans no longer doubt that the five-time league MVP will be in uniform: Season-ticket sales have surpassed the 12,000 mark, up more than 2,000 from the end of last season, and are approaching a franchise record.

''Our phones were busy all day,'' Wizards spokesman Matt Williams said.

Jordan's comeback will bring life, if not victories, to a moribund team that hasn't won a playoff game in 13 years. The Wizards will steal the spotlight the Capitals seized when they signed Jaromir Jagr and could even command more local attention than the Redskins -- a rarity during football season in the nation's capital.

Jordan ended his first NBA retirement in March 1995 with a fax simply stating, ''I'm back!'' He had quit the game in October 1993 after leading the Chicago Bulls to three titles and then failed in an attempt to play major league baseball.

He led the Bulls to three more titles and retired again in January 1999, shortly before the start of the lockout-shortened season. He said he was ''99.9 percent'' certain he would not return, a figure he kept using even as he began working out at gyms earlier this year.

Jordan had planned to announce he was 100 percent back last week, but the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks prompted him to shelve plans for a news conference and delayed his final OK.

''We're prepared for Michael's announcement,'' Williams said, ''whenever that may be.''

Subscribe to Peninsula Clarion

Trending this week:


© 2018. All Rights Reserved. | Contact Us