We need to talk about how selling his majority stake in the Charlotte Hornets affects Michael Jordan’s legacy.
Long story short, it doesn’t affect a damn thing.
If you don’t have time for this, I get it. I’m taking time out of my day for both of us to add cement to a legacy that’s already made of a hundred million tons of stone.
But last week, Colin Cowherd responded to the news that Michael Jordan is offloading his majority stake in the Charlotte Hornets to Gamestop short-squeeze victim Gabe Plotkin and Atlanta Hawks minority owner Rick Schnall.
And you might want to buckle up for this scorching hot take.
Cowherd said that Michael Jordan’s mythology as the most unassailably great basketball player of all time crumbles without Scottie Pippen and Phil Jackson, because he failed as a baseball player, failed with the Washington Wizards, and has now failed to turn the Charlotte Hornets into a winning franchise before cashing out.
First of all, the “if a thing didn’t happen, it never would have happened” argument is both always true and never true. Of course if things were different they would be different. But they’re not.
Second, on what planet does Michael Jordan having a relatively respectable run as a double-A right fielder at 31-years old after 13 years away from the game constitute a mark against his legacy of greatness on the basketball court? Baseball is an insanely hard sport. There were six other players on the 1994 Birmingham Barons that hit under .240 on the season, and half of them were major leaguers at some point.
Third, no the Wizards didn’t win a championship with Michael Jordan as a 37-year old first year general manager. But do you know what they did do when a 38-year old Michael Jordan that had been retired for three years stepped onto the court and replaced hall of fame shooting guard Mitch Richmond?
The Wizards almost doubled their win total. That’s a wild accomplishment that doesn’t get talked about enough. And it’s only a failure if your only measurement for success is perfection.
Last, the idea that someone could quintuple a quarter of a billion dollar investment in less than 15 years is insane. The only thing more insane would be to call that return on investment a failure.
The Charlotte Hornets not being a good basketball team has nothing to do with Michael Jordan, and everything to do with the fact that the Hornets have been stuck in mid-lottery hell while being a medium market team.
The only way to get good in the NBA is to either exist in a major market as a major free agent or trade destination, or hit the lottery jackpot with a can’t miss player. The third way- the rarest of all the ways, is to be a mid-market team that takes a risk on a guy from overseas and has it pay off, like Denver with Nikola Jokic or Milwaukee with Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Charlotte has had one pick inside the top 9 in the last nine years. And that was LaMelo Ball. Are we really calling Michael Jordan a failure because he earned a cool billion dollars while spending the majority of the last decade on the wrong end of lottery ball bounces?
My kids are athletes, and I always make sure to tell them that as Teddy Roosevelt said, as the man or woman in the arena, “It is not the critic who counts.”
And as Rudyard Kipling wrote, If you can be lied about, without dealing in lies, or be hated, without giving way to hating… yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it.”
When we attempt to define success and failure in multiple arenas in which we’ve never possessed the talent nor opportunity to even begin to compete, especially when what we call failures aren’t failures at all- that’s what creates what Teddy Roosevelt called a “cold and timid soul”
Let that sink in.