The Washington Wizards Hire Michael Jordan as President of Basketball Operations
In January of 2001, Michael Jordan was hired as the Washington Wizards President of basketball operations. Part of what lured him in for this deal was a 20 percent minority share in ownership. There was one main reason Jordan felt like joining the front office of another organization. He felt he could do a better job as a general manager than his front office did during his playing days in Chicago.
As a player on the Bulls, Jordan spent much of his time feuding with management. Chicago Bulls’ general manager Jerry Krause was quoted saying “Players and coaches don’t win championships organizations win championships.” Michael Jordan took this personally, yet he still had much respect for head coach Phil Jackson. As a result, he was willing to stay in Chicago until Krause’s relationship with Phil Jackson soured. According to reports, at the beginning of the Chicago Bulls 97-98 season Krause was quoted saying to Phil Jackson” “I don’t care if you go 82-0, you’re not coming back here.” Even though Jordan had previously stated ” if you trade Scottie Pippen or fire Phil Jackson I’ll retire,” Krause attempted to call out Jordan’s bluff and the plan drastically backfired on Krause.
The Drafting of Kwame “Bust” Brown
At the end of the 2000-2001 NBA season, the Washington Wizards had finished with a league-worst record of 19-63. This helped the Washington Wizards land the number one pick in the 2001 NBA draft.
At first, center Kwame Brown was supposed to play at the collegiate level, but the Washington Wizards managed to get a private workout with him. Afterward, Brown decided to enter the 2001 NBA Draft. Jordan liked what he saw from the high school prospect during the workout. As a result, the Washington Wizards drafted Kwame Brown with the no. 1 pick in the 2001 NBA draft. Jordan believed Kwame was to become the next Hakeem Olajuwon.
But Kwame Brown would turn out to be one of the worst draft picks in recent NBA history. Teammates would often describe Brown as someone with an atrocious work ethic, poor attitude and immature personality. Brown would go on to average a measly 6.3 points per game throughout his NBA career.
Michael Jordan Feels a Drive to Return to the Court
On September 25, 2001, Jordan announced he would return to the court. Jordan believed the Washington Wizards had the roster to become a title contender. He also wanted to give back to a younger generation of basketball players. Yet things didn’t go fully as planned.
The Washington Wizards’ first move with Jordan at the helm was to hire head coach Doug Collins. One of the biggest issues for Jordan was getting back into NBA shape. After all, he had been away from the sport of basketball for three years. Before the season started Jordan broke his ribs in a pickup game with Metta World Peace (Ron Artest). Jordan had to then take three months off from basketball and upon returning was a hefty 240 pounds.
The 2001-2002 NBA Season Begins
Although Jordan got off to a hot start during the 2001-2002 NBA season (averaging 26.8 points per game through his first eleven starts) the Washington Wizards started off a woeful 2-9. With a supporting cast of players such as Rip Hamilton (shooting guard), Chris Whitney (point guard) and Etan Thomas (power forward), Jordan simply wasn’t getting enough help to turn the season around.
Yet in late November, Jordan seemed to have gotten through to his teammates when he said: “We stink.” After this horrific start to the season, the Washington Wizards would win 24 of their next 36 games. This brought their record to a respectable 26-21. Jordan at the age of 39 had even entered the Most Valuable Player conversation. This is extremely impressive given that younger elite wings such as Kobe Bryant, Vince Carter and Tracy McGrady were all playing at this time as well.
However, after this stretch, Jordan tore his meniscus against the Sacramento Kings. Jordan continued to try to play but his production significantly dropped and he was forced to get knee surgery. As a result, the Wizards plummeted down the stretch, winning only 11 of their last 35 games. They would go on to miss the playoffs for a fifth consecutive season.
What Would’ve Happened if the Washington Wizards Drafted Pau Gasol With the Number 1 Pick Instead of Kwame “Bust” Brown?
A healthy Jordan Would go on to play all 82 games during his final season in Washington (2002-2003). However, the team would once again struggle in regards to developing a solid supporting cast around him. One can only wonder what would’ve happened during Michael Jordan’s stint in the district if the Wizards had drafted Forward Pau Gasol with the no. 1 pick instead of Kwame Brown. To put things into perspective Pau averaged 13.1 more points per game, 1.9 more assists per game and shot at a 13.1 percent higher efficiency rate then Brown during their rookie seasons.
After all, during the 2001-2002 season, the number one seeded New Jersey Nets of the Eastern Conference only won 52 games.
“From Our Haus to Yours“