With the Charlotte Bobcats amassing a 7-58 record in the first 65 games of their 2011-12 season, and only one game remaining in the strike-shortened regular season, the Bobcats were at risk of posting the worst regular-season record by winning percentage of all-time. With only a Thursday night game against the playoff-bound Knicks standing in between Charlotte and basketball infamy, team majority owner and pro-hoops legend Michael Jordan made the controversial and much-publicized decision to suit up for the team’s final contest, in an attempt to help shield them from ending up on the wrong side of NBA history. Here’s how it went down.
Monday, April 23rd. The Bobcats play their 64th game of the season against the Washington Wizards in DC. Despite facing a team that has been dysfunctional all year and will end up with the second-worst record in the league, the Bobcats fall easily, with Washington outscoring Charlotte 63-39 in the first half and ultimately winning 101-73. A disgusted Michael Jordan is shown sporadically on the sideline, until he is seen leaving the building halfway through the third quarter.
After the game, Michael Jordan calls a press conference for the next day. No explanation is given to the press as for the reason why, though Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports offers the following Tweet:
You guys are not going to BELIEVE what I’m hearing this MJ presser is gonna be about.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) May 6, 2012
Tuesday, April 24th. From the press room at the Amway Center in Orlando, where the Bobcats will be playing the Magic in their penultimate game the next night, Michael Jordan sits with a room two-thirds full of reporters. Those in attendance will later say they assumed that Jordan was either going to announce that he was stepping down as head of operations of the team, that he was selling his stake in the team, or that he was planning on firing Paul Silas and stepping in as head coach for next season. Instead, the Hall of Famer takes the podium and reads the following statement:
It’s been a hard season for all of us in the Bobcats organization, from Coach Silas to [general manager] Rich Cho, to our guys on the court. And as team owner and head of operations, I think it’s been hardest of all on me. I knew going into this season that we were a young team, and we were gonna have to take some lumps, suffer some growing pains, maybe miss the playoffs … but I never thought I’d be sitting here, two games to go in the season, and we’re knocking down the door of history with just how bad we’ve been.
You all know me, you know what I competitor I am, you know how much I hate — hate — losing. And in over 30 years of basketball, I’ve never, ever had to deal with losing like this.
Now, I’m not blaming our guys, who have had to deal with a lot of injuries, a lot of tough losses, and have continued to play hard, to try to grow as a team, even with all the setbacks. When you lose this much, it goes beyond the team, beyond even the coaching staff. When you lose this much, it’s on the owners — it’s on me — for not putting this team in a position to win games. I take full responsibility for the team’s record up until this point.
And that’s why it breaks my heart to see our guys, to see Kemba, Gerald, D.J., Bismack, going out there and competing every night, and have nothing to show for out. And now they’re not just fighting Orlando and New York in their last two games, they’re fighting history. I’d do anything … in my power … to save them from having to be associated with that kind of history.
That’s why I’ve called you all here to announce that, if we lose tomorrow night here in Orlando, I will be temporarily joining the Bobcats’ active roster for our game in New York against the Knicks. I will attempt to do for this team on the court what I was unable to do from the front office — to help them win enough games to avoid earning the distinction of having the worst record of any team that ever took the basketball court.
After Jordan finishes his statement, there are a couple seconds of awkward silence, as if the reporters in attendance temporarily forget what normally happens at this point in press conferences. A selection of some of the questions eventually asked and Jordan’s answers.
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