Jordan on the move -- perhaps to Milwaukee
CHICAGO -- A city shrugs as its hero passes through on his way to yet another journey of personal discovery.
"Michael Jordan is going to own the Milwaukee Bucks?" residents ask one another. "No way!"
Almost every day brings another reminder Jordan will not be back at work in the town that adopted him. Not only that, but according to the latest reports, he is trying to become the principal owner of the hated Bucks, barely 90 minutes to the north.
The last time Jordan plotted a return to the NBA, finding him couldn't be easier. The parking lot at Hoops the Gym was his mission control, and depending on the day, it filled up with Escalades and Benzes as Jordan summoned the best players from around the country to help him gauge his own game.
Naturally, he saved the best spot for himself. And being Jordan, he often rubbed it in by parking a fire-engine red Ferrari convertible there.
On Thursday, that spot was empty and the lot held more Hondas than any other brand. Although NBA pros Elton Brand and Corey Maggette stopped by to play, Jordan was nowhere in sight -- unless you count the statue that guards the nearby United Center, where he won half of the Bulls' six championships.
A few regulars from the gym say they haven't seen Jordan for a while.
"Try Milwaukee," said Tim Grover, Jordan's longtime personal trainer, before disappearing around a corner.
Those words don't sting the way they might have once. Whatever else Jordan's stopover in Washington proved, it hardly established him as a front-office genius.
Jordan retired as a player for the third time this spring -- it might be the charm -- and Wizards owner Abe Pollin informed him soon after that his services as president of basketball operations were no longer needed. Inquiring NBA minds have been trying to figure out how and where Jordan would begin scheming to get even ever since.
The early favorite was Charlotte, right after billionaire businessman Robert Johnson paid $300 million to relaunch a franchise there for the 2004-05 season. And it didn't hurt speculation when Johnson, already a Jordan pal, said finding office space wouldn't be a problem.
"He can play any role he wants to play, frankly," Johnson said.
Which explains all the time Jordan apparently has been spending in Milwaukee.
ESPN.com quoted league sources on Wednesday as saying an ownership group led by Jordan could be in control of the Bucks as early as July. It's long been one of the league's worst-kept secrets.
Jordan lives in Chicago's northern suburbs, cutting at least a half-hour off the drive. And without being prompted, NBA commissioner David Stern let slip during the finals that it's "his strong sense" Jordan will be back in the league by next season.
As the interview session ended, Stern was asked specifically about the Bucks and he replied, "I would love to see that happen."
That would hardly surprise people in Chicago. For weeks now, the local citizenry has amused itself trying to guess the other members of Jordan's group.
Last week, with golf's U.S. Open being played at Olympia Fields Country Club, some 40 miles south of Chicago, Tiger Woods was asked about rumors that he was one of the principal investors.
"No truth," he replied.
Follow up question: "No truth at all?
Before the next question was complete, however, Woods interjected.
"From my end," he said, referring back to the questions about Jordan's ownership group.
"I don't know about his end," Woods added, "but from my end."
Jordan has been playing it coy recently, but his original flirtation with the Bucks was largely ignored in the rush to find out whether he was going to return as a player two season ago.
In one of the post-workout conversations he held in the Hoops parking lot, Jordan revealed that team owner Sen. Herb Kohl had approached him about joining the Bucks' organization not long after his January 1999, departure from the Bulls.
Jordan was still angry over leaving on someone else's terms -- he saw Chicago's rebuilding plans and wanted no part of them -- and besides, Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf wasn't offering him any work.
But before Jordan and Kohl finalized anything -- "We were close," Jordan said at the time -- the Washington deal brokered by Ted Leonsis fell into his lap.
In that deal, Jordan persuaded his partners to accept the value of his name and reputation in lieu of cold cash, but that won't work this time around. According to the ESPN reports, Kohl is asking $170 million for the Bucks and Jordan is willing to kick in $50 million of his own cash -- provided he gets the last word in all basketball decisions.
That leaves $120 million to be split among the partners, none of whom should expect much say for their money. Whoever said there is nothing so limited as being a limited partner of George Steinbrenner's obviously never worked alongside Jordan.