Michael Jordan – Unthinkable
By Anthony Peretore
One of the main under-lying topics in the National Basketball Association this season has undoubtedly been the high frequency of coaching changes since the beginning of the year. Count ’em, ten replacements have been made thus far: New York (Wilkens-Williams), Cleveland (Silas-Malone), Orlando (Davis-Jent), Dallas (Nelson-Johnson), Denver (Bzdelik-Cooper-Karl), Minnesota (Saunders-McHale), Memphis (Brown-Fratello), Portland (Cheeks-Pritchard), and the Lakers (Tomjanovich-Hamblen). In my eyes, at least five of these eight teams should be looking for new help once the offseason rolls around: the Knicks, Cavs, Wolves, Blazers, and Lakers. Now two of these cities just happen to be the most highly acclaimed and pressurized locations in all of sports (I’ll let you guess which two). Assuming Phil Jackson returns to LA (your guess is as good as mine), that would still leave a giant hole to fill in the Big Apple, assuming (this thesaurus stinks) Herb gets fired. Now recently I was on vacation in Florida and one day while baking (no, not basking) in the sun, I came up with a brilliant/ridiculous (depending on how you look at it) plan for the Knicks to finally get back on track. If you take a look at their payroll next season, which is hovering close to $100 million, they really need to make a move that will shake this team up for the future. Now I’m not just talking about moving either Stephon Marbury or Jamal Crawford, or somehow trapping Allan Houston and Penny Hardaway in a burning building, but something much bigger. While it would be wonderful for me to just give away my answer right here in my introduction paragraph, well that would be far too kind of me, wouldn’t it?
Due to my borderline obsession with collecting basketball cards as a kid, I can remember most of the stars that graced the court in the late-’80’s and early ’90s. Fast-forward to today and it’s amazing how many of those same guys in short shorts have in one way or another returned to the game. Danny Ainge (BOS), Joe Dumars (DET), Kiki Vandeweghe (DEN), Kevin McHale (MIN), and Chris Mullin (GSW) all currently man GM posts in the league. Doc Rivers (BOS), Sam Mitchell (TOR), John Paxson (CHI), Terry Porter (MIL), Avery Johnson (DAL), Byron Scott (NOR), McHale (MIN), and Nate McMillan (SEA) complete the list of above-average players currently employed as head coaches. Not to mention the Mo Cheeks (POR) and Michael Coopers (DEN) over the years that have been fired by their respective teams. Oh yeah, and I almost forgot the superstars: Larry Bird, who has dabbled in sideline and front office work with the Pacers. And Magic Johnson who was the Lakers’ coach for about 37 seconds and now owns a small share of the team. Oh, and what about the guy who single-handedly destroyed the CBA and is doing similar work with the Knicks these days? Yup, it’s Isiah Thomas, and coincidentally the perfect segue way to the main point of this article. Looking back at this previous crop of NBA talent, there’s one name that’s missing. No, I’m not talking about John Stockton, Karl Malone or Danny Schayes, but someone even bigger. Someone that tried his hand at management and even returned to play for that particular team. Right now you’re all saying, “No, he can’t mean…” Yup, Michael Jordan himself. Before you ex out this webpage, at least hear me out.
Say James Dolan, the chairman of Madison Square Garden and president of Cablevision (which owns the Garden) sat down one day and dialed 1-800-mjordan. Now, what if that conversation went something like this: “Hey Mike, its James Dolan, wudup? I heard you were looking for control of a NBA franchise? Okay, so what if we gave Isiah the boot (whom you hate anyway), would you take over as President of Basketball Operations and possibly even coach the team?” Now after MJ wiped the sweat off his brow with his velvet Jordan brand jumpsuit, is there anyway he could say no? Control and coaching duty of the New York Knicks, he’d have to say yes, right? See, the part about becoming President of Operations isn’t too far-fetched at all, especially now that Knicks’ management is probably looking to get Isiah the hell out of there anyway. But you may be thinking there’s no way he’d want to coach the team too, that’s just too much. Well, I thought the same thing for a while until this past week down south where I began to second-guess myself (or I spent way too long in the heat, you be the judge).
Remember back to 2001 when Jordan had partial reign of the Wizards in D.C.? And remember how that limited ownership and control of the team wasn’t even close to good enough for him? Well, that’s the sole reason why it took MJ approximately 0.4 seconds to return to the hardwood and drop 22.9 PPG that season in a failed attempt to get Washington to the playoffs; he simply could not take a backseat. So while Michael says he only wants front office control, he’ll soon realize that sitting up in that luxury box with all the chicken fingers and shrimp cocktail Oliver Miller can eat won’t be enough. He’ll need to have hands-on control of that team and now that he’s 42 years old and playing is out of the question (we hope), the best alternative is a return to the bench in an Armani suit. See, when you’re the best at something, you never want to sit back and just watch. For example, say you’re nasty at Super Mario Land for the original Nintendo and you’re showing someone how to beat level 8-4, but they keep getting Mario killed by that damn fire ball, what are you going to do? That’s right, snatch the controller from their grip, hold down the b button and go save the Princess. See the parallel here? (The Knicks are the princess)
So the last question would be, why the Knicks? I’ll provide you with five quick reasons.
1) Michael Jordan needs the limelight like we need drinking water and what better city than the biggest and brightest?
2) Of the five aforementioned teams in need of a coach, only two are in a big city, and only one is without an egotistical (Kobe) player to control
3) The Knicks haven’t made it past the first round of the playoffs since the 1999-2000 season and with their astronomical payroll, the light at the end of the tunnel is about as bright as a headlight on a ’82 Oldsmobile.
4) No player alive would turn down playing for Michael Jordan (when they clear enough cap space of course)
5) The team, city, its fans and the entire league are all waiting desperately for the Knicks to return to glory
Still too far-fetched? Okay, so maybe it won’t happen this summer, but how about when Houston and Penny come off the books in 2006? Take a look at the list of free agents MJ would have a crack at: Shaquille O’Neal, Ben Wallace, Tyson Chandler, Eddy Curry, Rashard Lewis, Kwame Brown, and Jake Voskuhl, just to name a few. I’m not going to make this thing even more crazy and say Jordan and Shaq will team up for one last run in ’06-07, but if you want to imagine it, I’m not going to shatter your dreams. But no matter who came to NYC, can you honestly tell me that Garden crowd wouldn’t be rocking for all 41 games it hosted? Tell me Jay-Z, Beyonce, their first child, Spike Lee, P. Diddy, the Olsen twins, Paris Hilton, etc. wouldn’t be gracing the crowd at least twice a week? This is Michael Jordan people, the greatest player to ever lace them up. The same guy with the greatest will to win and string of success of arguably anyone on the planet. Who knows, maybe he only wants a stake in a team so he can sit back with his kids and munch on those chicken fingers and shrimp. But maybe one day he’ll turn out to be a hell of a coach and put the New York Knickerbockers (or some other team) back on the NBA map. Maybe one day I’ll say I told you so. But then again, maybe not. That’s the beauty of the NBA.