Charlotte Bobcats owner Michael Jordan is reportedly leading a faction of hard-line NBA owners that will urge the league not to make any more concessions to the players, according to a report in the New York Times. The group of 10 to 14 owners is reportedly upset that the league has proposed a 50-50 split of basketball-related income with the players and would likely vote against such an agreement.
A majority of the 29 owners would support a 50-50 deal, according to the story, but Jordan is a part of a group that wanted players to receive no more than 47 percent. Jordan’s position is a sharp contrast from where he stood 13 years ago, when he famously sparred with late Wizards owner Abe Pollin during a tense negotiating session. During a heated exchange, Jordan reportedly shouted to Pollin, “If you can’t make a profit, you should sell your team.”
The economic climate has indeed changed since 1998. And so has Jordan’s position in the labor battle. He became the first former player to be the primary owner of an NBA team after paying $275 million last year to acquire the Bobcats from entertainment magnate Bob Johnson.
In between the last lockout-shortened season, Jordan managed to work for Pollin as an executive and a player before an ugly split in 2003. Now Jordan finds himself seeking a favorable deal for NBA owners, just as Pollin did. His stance may seem hypocritical, given how he once fought vigilantly on behalf of the players. But it shouldn’t come as a surprise, since Jordan has always been fiercely competitive and ruthless.
Jordan may have changed teams, but his desire to crush the opposition is still the same. The fire that drove him to five most valuable player awards, six NBA championships and a record 72-win season never faded. He’s just looking to do a six-three-pointer-shoulder-shrug in a sportcoat, ripped up jeans and loafers instead shorts and his signature sneakers — which all-stars Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade and Chris Paul endorse.
Since Jordan finds himself in the unusual position as an underdog, representing a small market team, he perhaps more reason to be strident. Earlier this week, Jordan passed on serving as captain’s assistant at the Presidents Cup’s golf tournament in Australia, citing the labor impasse as a reason to back out.
The stance sets the stage for what could be an uncomfortable bargaining session Saturday, when the owners and players will attempt to reach a settlement and end the nearly four-month lockout.
Fifty players, including several NBA all-stars, already have threatened to seek to dissolve the union if they don’t receive a satisfactory deal or no deal is produced this weekend. Those players had a conference call with an antitrust lawyer this week and don’t want the union to go below 52.5 percent.