Hear the words “greatness” and “athlete” and who do you think of? For me, it is Michael Jordan, the former star of the Chicago Bulls. These days, he is a majority owner and head of basketball operations for the lowly Charlotte Bobcats, winners of 21 games during the 2012-2013 season. He has been with the organization since 2006.
Who could forget Jordan’s Hall-of-Fame-speech pronouncement that maybe someday he would decide to play the game again at 50 years old. If anyone would be crazy and competitive enough to do something like that, it would be Jordan. Well, last year it happened. Turning 50, that is. And of course, it sparked rumors, as crazy as they may have seemed, about a potential comeback. ESPN ran this fascinating piece, which claimed that Jordan can still hold his own in one-on-one match-ups against Bobcat players, but that the problem is recovering from it the next day. Ultimately, the comeback never happened.
So how easily transferable is greatness on the court to greatness in other areas, specifically, the front office? Well, it’s certainly not unprecedented. Larry Bird had some success with it in the Indiana Pacers‘ organization. Or how about Jerry West with the Los Angeles Lakers? But for whatever reasons, having Jordan around definitely hasn’t meant automatic (or even long-term) success for the Bobcats. Is there still hope?
The Bobcats have shown a little more fight in jumping out to a 5-6 start with wins against bigger-market teams like Boston and New York. The jury is still out on Indiana product and off-season lottery pick Cody Zeller, controversial decision in its own way, who is averaging just over five points and just under four rebounds in 17 minutes of work per contest.
In the early-going of the 2013-2014 season, the Bobcats have scored the basketball in a very balanced way, but they don’t seem to have much in the way of a single star who might be able to carry them to something as dreamlike as a playoff birth. Al Jefferson, Kemba Walker, Gerald Henderson, Ramon Sessions, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, and Jeff Taylor are all averaging double figures in scoring, with Josh McRoberts right under. Jefferson has played sparingly due to an ankle injury.
If you’re looking for a model for what the organization seems to be trying to do — create a deep nucleus of young talent — you might look to the Pacers rather than the Heat. Which is interesting, considering the magnitude of Jordan’s own talent and stardom during his heyday. It is probably too early in the rebuilding process to expect the playoffs, but being consistently more competitive would be a good goal. It is fair to take the “long view” here, but Jordan isn’t exactly new to his role, so patience is surely waning in Charlotte.