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Special Event

Michael Jordan Returns to Professional Basketball, Hoping to Work Some Magic for the Wizards

Aired January 19, 2000 - 4:55 p.m. ET


GENE RANDALL, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, I'm Gene Randall in Washington. "INSIDE POLITICS" is coming up, but we have a breaking news story here in Washington.

Former Chicago Bulls superstar Michael Jordan is coming to this city as head of basketball operations and as part owner of the last- place Washington Wizards of the NBA. Word of the impending deal came last week. We're about to get details from the principals involved. The setting is MCI Center in Downtown D.C.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Let's get started.

Let me first introduce the mayor of this great city and host of next year's NBA All-Star Game, Mayor Anthony Williams.


ANTHONY WILLIAMS, MAYOR OF WASHINGTON, D.C.: Good afternoon to all of you, and welcome to America's greatest city, America's flagship city, your hometown Washington, D.C. Welcome everyone.

Welcome to -- I call him Mayor Leonsis, Ted Leonsis -- it's a private joke. John Ledecki (ph), all of you from the Washington Wizards. And very, very importantly Abe Pollin and his wife, Irene -- we want to really thank them.

You know, this is really a story of how not just snowstorms but good things blow in from Chicago. You know, I'm a big -- I'm a very, very big fan, so I'm not going to call and gloat. But this clearly is a big day in our city.

We have someone here who's not only a great athlete, but is going to show our children what it means to be an executive, as a role model. He's going to show what it means to make a commitment, like he already has, in a scholarship program for our youth. All of that is very, very important. It really is simply going to electrify our city.

But in welcoming everyone here, I also want to take just a moment to thank Abe Pollin and his wife to their contribution to our city. They really do.

(APPLAUSE) When there are a number of choices on where to bring this center, Abe Pollin and this center ended up in Washington, D.C. When there are a number of choices on what he could do for our city, Abe Pollin was there to provide hope and inspiration for our homeless. When there are a number of choices, Abe Pollin was there to provide for our needy families.

Time and time and time again Abe Pollin and his family are there, and we want to tell you, Abe, we appreciate what you're doing, we're going to stand by your side. Give him a big hand. He's a great man.


And thank all of you -- thank all of you for being here today. God bless you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It wouldn't be me if I couldn't tell you that season tickets are available at 202-661-5050.

This is the last time they give me the mike.

Let's -- let's welcome the majority shareholder in Lincoln Holdings, which owns 100 percent of the Washington Capitals, as well as a stake in Washington Sports Entertainment, that owns the Wizards, the Mystics and the MCI Center. He is president of AOL Interactive Properties Group, and he deserves a tremendous amount of credit for making this happen today, Mr. Ted Leonsis.



I wanted to be the first to say, it's official. Michael Jordan is coming to Washington, D.C.


And the great thing about what we're announcing today, and if you could be in the meetings to see the interaction between Michael and Abe and Wes and myself, you would see that this really clicked, and Michael had his choice to go anywhere, and he chose to come here. And his main goal and my main goal and Mr. Pollin's main goal is to bring championships to this great city and to embellish on what Mr. Pollin has believed in: that this is the greatest city on Earth, and that if we could bring the excitement and the kind of dedication to excellence that Michael Jordan represented, that it would lift everything that we were doing.

So, that's what this announcement is all about. I've had the pleasure to get to know Michael. Our first meeting with John Ledecki and George Stamos (ph) was back in August. He has been consistent in everything that he has said to us: one, dedicated to winning. Ownership was very, very important. I'm pleased to announce that Michael Jordan has become an equity partner, along with myself, John Ledecki, Dick Patrick, Raoul Fernandez (ph), who just joined us, and George Stamos.

This is significant. It is a significant equity ownership as he's the first Afro-American former player to be involved in leadership, and we welcome him. He'll be a full partner.

Of course, one of the questions I asked him was could he skate, and unfortunately -- but Michael Jordan will own also a piece of the Washington Capitals.

A lot of people worked very, very hard to put this deal together, and I'm very pleased that the negotiations went very well. George Stamos, Mr. Pollin and David Oznos (ph), David Falk and Curtis Polk (ph). And we all worked with one effort, one vision, which was to bring Michael Jordan here and to have Michael Jordan do what he does best, which is to win championships.

And so with that, I want to turn this over to the guy who really made all of this possible and brought us all together, and really my partner and the guy I've been joined at the hip with since I came into this business back in July, Abe Pollin.


ABE POLLIN, MAJORITY OWNER, WASHINGTON WIZARDS: Thank you, Ted. Thank you all for coming. It's a very special day for me and my family and my two sons, my daughter (UNINTELLIGIBLE) wife (UNINTELLIGIBLE) here. And I greet all of you.

Let me say this is a very special day for me. And I want to say this up front: The guy on the right, I consider him not only my partner but my friend, was instrumental in making this happen. Without Ted it would not have happened. Ted was the guy that started all of this. Ted is the guy who contacted Michael.

And I could just say this about where we are. When I decided to look for a partner in some of my activities, I decided that it had to be the guy -- the guy had to be the best of the best, because everything that I've tried to do for the city of Washington, including this building, I said everything we do in this building had to be the best of the best, and therefore, of all the groups that were interested in becoming involved with me, Ted was the best of the best by far.

And now here we are: What can we do to sort of spruce up, spice up, get the Wizards to be winners? Who is the best winner in the world? Who is the best athlete who ever played this game? Who's the best guy that refuses to lose? Who's the best guy that I watched for all the years I've been in the NBA and said, God, someday I would hope that that guy will be part of what I do?

The best athlete of the century -- and one of the things that I found out about this person, and having met with him for a few hours at my home privately, is what a class guy he is. He is one of the greatest athletes that ever put on a suit, but also a guy who really is class. He's a straight, honest, decent, wonderful human being, and in the short term, I've gotten to really know him. I really consider him as somebody I really consider and honor, consider a friend.

So it is my privilege now to turn the mike over to this special Mike, Michael Jordan. Michael?


MICHAEL JORDAN, FORMER PROFESSIONAL BASKETBALL PLAYER/WIZARDS MINORITY OWNER: Thank you very much, appreciate it. Unfortunately, my wife couldn't be here, so she told me to pass on her happiness and certainly to say hello to the city of Washington. She has spent some time here, and we look forward to spending more time here.

You know, this is new to me. You know, not you people watching me and watching every move I make, but just being in a city to give my support to another team. Normally, I'm in support of the Chicago Bulls, which as you guys know it's been a great situation for me. And the most fortunate thing, or unfortunate -- whichever way you want to look at it -- I was drafted by Chicago and we're at the bottom of the totem pole to some degree and it took some work to get to the top.

And as much as you guys may have given me the respect of being and certainly the expectations that I've kind set for myself because I used to shoot a basketball through a rim pretty decent, this team and my efforts to try to make this team a successful one, quite naturally, is going to take some time.

But I look forward to the challenge, and I know there's a lot of people who are probably saying that, you know, just by Michael Jordan being in charge and making a decision -- he's never had an opportunity to do that, and you know, maybe that's not the ingredient that may turn this team around. But then again, it may be. That's the beauty of trying and going out and seeing what happens.

And Abe Pollin has given me an opportunity to help direct this basketball team in the right direction, if I can, along with Wes Unseld, who I have the utmost respect for.

There's been a lot of stories saying that Wes is going to be kicked to the curb or not going to have any input in terms of what happens with this team. And that certainly is not the case.

I've always respected players before me, because they have always given me the opportunity to succeed. If it wasn't for them, certainly the league wouldn't have been my platform to excel. So for all the skepticism surrounding that issue, I anticipate Wes being around. And quite naturally, we will have some conference between the two of us, and when the time comes to make decisions, certainly we both hopefully will be on the same page.

I'm looking forward to this opportunity. Yes, it's different, and I don't get to play. I don't get to wear the Wizards uniform. But quite naturally, hopefully I can influence the players that are going to be wearing those uniforms. I have an attitude about the way I play. I have an attitude about the way I win. And my job and my responsibility with this organization is to see if I can pass that on to the players in those uniforms.

(UNINTELLIGIBLE) a lot of task out there. We have a lot of problems with the cap room. Those are the issues that we're going to have to deal with as we move further into this relationship. And I'm pretty sure that you guys want to test my brains and see, you know, what challenges and what changes may happen.

You know, it's going to take some time for me to come in here and evaluate what's here, and what's going to stay here and what's going to leave. But that's a part of the whole challenge, and I look forward to it.

You have some good things here. You have a good team. Although we're not playing extremely well right now -- and that happens -- my job, as well everyone with the organization, is to try find a way to make that happen.

You know, you have got a couple of All-Star players on the team. You've got a couple of players who are young, probably don't understand the chances and the opportunities they're being presented with. I think as an organization we've got to find a way to make sure they understand their responsibility for the checks they're being paid.

So I think that's a good starting point for us, and I look forward to that. And believe me, it's not just going to happen overnight, although, you know, I'm glad the way you guys have come out to support. Hopefully, you'll come to the games and have the same type of support of the talent that's on the basketball court. Even though they may not be going through a great time right now, it's my job to try to make sure they put the effort on the basketball court so they pay the respect to the people that come and watch the game.

But I look forward to turning this thing around in a matter of time. And quite naturally, I'm going to try to have my imprints and footprints all over this organization. So I look forward to that.

Thank you very much once again for coming out, and I'm open for questions. And...

RANDALL: Basketball legend Michael Jordan announcing he is returning to the game in a business suit. He'll be part owner and will head basketball operations for the last-place Washington Bullets (sic) of the National Basketball Association.


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