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Wizards tickets a hot commodity

Posted: Thursday, September 27, 2001

WASHINGTON -- Suddenly, everyone wants to see the Washington Wizards.

Typically one of the NBA's weaker draws, the Wizards have become one of the biggest attractions around the league since Michael Jordan announced he was coming out of retirement to play for Washington.

Phone lines were ringing off the hook in Seattle and Boston. Interest in Bulls' season tickets peaked as fans wondered what it would be like to see the man who won six championship rings in Chicago play in a uniform that wasn't red and black.

And at Jordan's new home court, MCI Center in Washington, people who thought they would never pay money to watch the Wizards play lined up for seats.

''Did you think I was going to buy tickets to see (Kwame) Brown and (Richard) Hamilton play? No way,'' lawyer I. Hope Umana said Wednesday about Jordan's new teammates before paying more than $2,000 for two season tickets.

''I just want anything that will get me into the building,'' Umana said.

The ticket frenzy began soon after Jordan made his comeback official in a statement Tuesday.

Citing his love for the game, Jordan sold his ownership stake in the team and relinquished his position as president of basketball operations to resume his playing career.

Individual game tickets for the Wizards' two visits to Boston have sold out. The Celtics limited the number of tickets people could buy to see the Wizards to four.

Mike Golub, senior vice president of business operations for the Memphis Grizzlies, said the phones had been ringing since Jordan's announcement.

''When the news broke, the business probably tripled and today is our best sales day,'' Golub said. ''This will be a slam-dunk sellout.''

The Denver Nuggets added their March 20 game against the Wizards to 10-game ticket packages. Paul Andrews, vice president of ticket sales, said he expected the game to be sold out by the time regular ticket sales open Oct. 6.

''That is the most high-demand game by far and every team will tell you that,'' Andrews said.

At the MCI Center ticket counter, there was a brief wait at a booth that sold only season tickets. Team spokesman Matt Williams said that was because most season ticket sales were done over the phone.

''This morning was the decision-maker,'' Mike Sami said about making up his mind to buy tickets. He paid $3,700 for two tickets to see all 41 home games.

''Jordan is going to do the team good, and he's going to do the city good,'' Sami said.

Williams said as of Wednesday, 1,000 new season ticket packages were sold since Jordan's announcement. That boosts the number of total season ticket plans sold to 13,000, surpassing the previous high of 12,000 set in 1997, when MCI Center opened.

Ten- and 20-game ticket plans for the Wizards already were sold out.

In addition, the Wizards set aside 1,500 seats to be sold individually, without a season-ticket plan. Those tickets go on sale Monday.

''Certainly, we've been getting more calls about tickets this early in the season than we've ever had,'' Williams said.

In Chicago, fans marked Jan. 19 and March 1 on their calendars. Those are the days when Jordan and the Wizards visit the Bulls.

''In the market where he played and won six championships, they really want to see him,'' team spokeswoman Sebrina Brewster said.

Brewster said individual game tickets don't go on sale until Oct. 6, and when they do there will be only about 1,000 of them.

She said the team is, however, selling season-ticket packages and four different 11-game packages, two of which include one of the two games the Wizards play in Chicago.

Even people like Scott Baird, a hockey fan who up to now had little interest in basketball, pondered whether to buy Wizards tickets. Baird was waiting in line at MCI Center for tickets for the Washington Capitals.

''Yeah, I'd see him play. Michael is Michael, he's such a special athlete,'' Baird said. ''He can do whatever he wants.''

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On the Net:

Washington Wizards: http://www.nba.com/wizards/



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