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News » An 'Air' of aloofness


An 'Air' of aloofness


An 'Air' of aloofnessOver the next few days, the tributes to Michael Jordan will be glowing and abundant. And that's precisely as it should be. He is one of the greatest Basketball players of all-time, arguably the best, and his enshrinement into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame tonight provides a perfect opportunity to celebrate his illustrious career -- especially in Chicago, where he quenched the city's thirst for a winner with a flood of championships.

But in spite of his accomplishments and iconic status in the late 1980s and 1990s, I sense a growing disconnect between Jordan and his adopted hometown these days.

Of course, he remains immensely popular and people still revel in the Bulls' remarkable run of six titles in eight years. Those exploits, though, seem so long ago.

Sure, time is a factor. It's been more than 11 years since Jordan famously made his exit as a Bull, hitting that clutch jumper from the top of the key to wrap up the franchise's sixth title in June 1998.

Another significant reason for the divide is he hasn't been apart of the Bulls organization since his playing days. His career ended and then -- poof! -- he was gone.

FRONT-OFFICE AMBITIONS

That's not how it usually works in professional sports. All-time greats, whether it's Jerry West with the Lakers or Bill Russell with the Celtics, are kept in the fold, one way or another, and are associated with one organization for most (if not all) of their careers.

But Jordan wanted to run a front office, and that wasn't going to happen with the Bulls . You couldn't fire then-general manager Jerry Krause after the team's success, and Jordan and Krause certainly couldn't work together.

Despite the franchise's success, the two had a rocky relationship for years. I'm sure you could find fault on both sides, but Jordan exacerbated the situation by constantly needling Krause in front of the team.

With Jordan looking for a new challenge, the struggling Washington Wizards swooped in and offered him the position of president of Basketball operations in 2000. That led to Jordan returning to the court a year later to play for two more seasons.

By playing, Jordan sold a lot of tickets for the Wizards, but he essentially was fired as soon as he decided to retire again. Some of his personnel moves were cited as the reason for his ouster -- coach Leonard Hamilton and No. 1 pick Kwame Brown -- but there also were whispers that Wizards owner Abe Polin wasn't a fan of Jordan's commitment to the job before he decided to return. Despite running the day-to-day operations of the Wizards, Jordan spent a great deal of time outside of Washington.

That's the same criticism many folks in Charlotte have of Jordan now that he is the managing partner for Basketball operations with the Bobcats: He's out of town a lot, watches most of the team's games on television and has a superstar's aloofness that doesn't work for front-office executives.

In fact, that aloofness is probably the main reason for Jordan's disconnect with Chicago fans. Most locals probably don't even know he still lives a great deal of the year in Chicago.

POOR AT BEING A PUBLIC FIGURE

He's rarely seen and almost never is heard from. I can understand him wanting to withdraw from the public eye. It's extremely difficult being such a public figure and having seemingly everyone wanting a piece of you.

Still, it comes with the territory, and some players handle it better than others. Jordan doesn't handle it well.

That's why none of the tributes to Jordan in the last few days have included comments from him on what going into the Hall means to him. It's also why there was no comment from him back in February when Bulls great Norm Van Lier died suddenly.

Would it have been too much for Jordan to spend 20 minutes on a conference call with local reporters this week? Would it have been too taxing to have his publicist release a statement after the death of Van Lier?

Don't misunderstand. I'm not whining because Jordan's not talking to me or other reporters. It's just that when he's not talking to the media, he's not communicating with the fans.

During the news conference this morning and the enshrinement ceremony tonight, he'll get a chance to speak directly to fans in Chicago and elsewhere. Here's hoping it's a first step in rebuilding the relationship between Jordan and Chicago fans.

With all he's accomplished and all the joy he brought to the locals, he should be the most recognizable icon in Chicago this side of the Sears (make that Willis) Tower.

THE SCHEDULE

TODAY

9 a.m. -- News conference with members of the class of 2009 (Michael Jordan, Jerry Sloan, David Robinson, John Stockton and C. Vivian Stringer) at Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame. Event will be broadcast live on ESPN and NBA TV.

4:30-5:30 p.m. -- Live ''Red Carpet'' telecast on NBA TV of the dignitaries arriving at Symphony Hall for the enshrinement ceremony.

5:30-8 p.m. -- Enshrinement ceremony broadcast live on ESPN and NBA TV.

8-11 p.m. -- Hall of Fame Post-Enshrinement Gala at the Hall.

SATURDAY

9 a.m. -- Enshrinement Golf Invitational at Mohegan Sun Resort.

6:30 p.m. -- Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Induction Celebration and Ring Ceremony at Mohegan Sun.


Author: Fox Sports
Author's Website: http://www.foxsports.com
Added: September 12, 2009

 

 
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