Almost seven years to the day after he became owner of the Charlotte Hornets, Michael Jordan is flexing his muscles — and putting his stamp on the NBA once again.
The latest example comes courtesy of the New York Knicks, oddly enough. When James Dolan and Charles Oakley publicly butted heads last week, commissioner Adam Silver looped in Jordan to help smooth things over.
Yes, Jordan and Oakley are longtime friends, which certainly was a factor in His Airness’ involvement, but this was bigger than camaraderie. Jordan has the respect and attention of everyone even tangentially related to the NBA every time he steps into a room. He knows that as much as we do, and he’s becoming more comfortable wielding that cudgel with every passing day.
If you’re James Dolan and Michael Jordan tells you to knock it off, you knock it off. You don’t argue with the man who has a more legitimate claim to owning the Garden than your own.
The same is true if you’re the NBA owners and the players’ union. Both sides credited Jordan for facilitating smooth negotiations on the new CBA this past year, which culminated in a new agreement last month without even the threat of a work stoppage. As Cleveland’s James Jones put it (via NBA.com):
“The imagery of negotiations between players and owners,” Jones said, “is where you envision players on one side, owners on the other, both jockeying for position, both not wanting to flinch, both wanting to put their strongest face forward. Tone and rhetoric is a huge part of that. Mike is able to defuse that. He understands the passion that players have. He understands that language and he’s able to digest it and relay it to the owners. And he’s also able to relay the owners’ sentiments and viewpoints.
“That makes a very trying and taxing situation a lot more manageable and bearable.”
Twice in the past year, then, Jordan saw the potential for disaster and used his influence to avert a crisis. That’s not a random occurrence.
Basketball’s one true icon is finally acting as such. Now that he’s truly comfortable in his post-playing career, the man who famously declined to get involved in politics because it was bad for business has dived into the political games that come with being an NBA owner.
Literally no one else in the NBA is in such perfect position to make sure all parties have the game’s best interests in mind. This is his moment, if he wants to make the most of it. His experience as the game’s greatest player and its only current African-American owner allows MJ to relate to all sides and to offer real solutions to real problems.
So LeBron James can talk all he wants about surpassing Jordan’s legacy on the court. These days, His Airness has far bigger things in mind — and the Association is better for his activism.