It’s not like it caught anyone off guard, given there had been rumblings about it happening for months.
Still, Michael Jordan officially agreeing to sell off a major stake of the Charlotte Hornets for a reported $3 billion on Friday means there will be an eventual shift of power after the NBA’s board of governors approves the transaction, which should be a mere formality since prospective majority owners Gabe Plotkin and Rick Schnall each served roles on the board.
The sale leaves plenty of wondering what’s next, and it comes at a time when the Hornets already have enough queries surrounding them given their No. 2 overall position in the NBA Draft on Thursday. Here are five burning questions likely on the minds of Charlotte fans:
Will the team move?
Whenever a team in a smaller market is sold, one of the first things that immediately pops up into people’s minds is inevitable: Will the team go somewhere else? The Hornets, for those who might be worried, aren’t going anywhere. If you weren’t aware, last year the Hornets and city of Charlotte agreed on a deal to not only upgrade the Spectrum Center but also to build a new state-of-the-art practice facility across the street.
That situation alone makes it extremely unlikely that the new owners would do the unthinkable and move the Hornets out of Charlotte for a second time. There also are local ties within the proposed minority ownership group, including North Carolina natives and musicians J. Cole and Eric Church.
Who’s in charge?
With the franchise in the midst of one of the most critical junctures on the NBA’s yearly calendar, the last thing the Hornets need is to have too many people at the decision-making table. So as they go through the transition, Jordan will ultimately have the final say.
The full expectation is for Jordan to be in on who the team will select with the second pick in this week’s draft, which is why he would like to have a sit-down with Scoot Henderson and Brandon Miller to ensure the Hornets select the right player.
This could be Jordan’s last hurrah, in a sense, and he has the chance to help set the Hornets up for long-term success if either Henderson or Miller brings a similar excitement and rejuvenation the organization felt when it landed LaMelo Ball in 2020. Although Jordan’s technically not going anywhere, it would be a good parting gift for the fans in his final move as chief decision-maker. Gradually, those responsibilities will ultimately fall to Plotkin and Schnall.
What does this mean for coach Steve Clifford and general manager Mitch Kupchak?
Right now, nothing. A coaching change isn’t in the works, and it’s not something that’s even under consideration. Clifford technically hasn’t been on the job for a full year. Remember, he came on board June 24, which was a few days after the 2022 draft, right before free agency began and just prior to the Hornets’ offseason being turned upside down.
Thus, Clifford’s time on the job has not only been minimal, he hasn’t had the opportunity to guide a fully healthy team. He needs at least one more season to show to the new ownership group that he’s the person to lead this team beyond the 2023-24 campaign.
Kupchak signed a multi-year contract extension last year, but that might not matter to new ownership. He has a big offseason ahead of him to reshape the roster, and how the team performs during the upcoming season will have a huge impact on his future a year from now.
Why is Jordan doing this now?
Likely for a number of reasons. The first is pretty simple. Have you seen the prices of sports franchises lately? The figures being tossed around like monopoly money are insane.
Whether it’s the NFL’s Washington Commanders fetching a record $6.05 billion or the English Premier League’s Chelsea changing hands last year to the tune of $3.2 billion, the sports ownership landscape is flush with cash. Values are rising daily and after paying $250 million for the team in 2010, Jordan is pocketing a reported $3 billion — and still has some equity left in the team as a minority owner.
Secondly, Jordan is ultra-competitive and doesn’t enjoy losing at anything. Things haven’t gone well in a results-oriented business and surely he doesn’t want his overall legacy completely tarnished by his decade-plus stint as the Hornets’ head honcho. A 423-600 record will be attached to his name and that undoubtedly is bothersome for an iconic figure who slayed the league as a player en route to winning six championships.
Which leads us to the next point: Jordan is among the top athletes of all time and not everyone possesses the same kind of killer instinct he had. Stephen Jackson recently told a story on a podcast recalling Jordan showing up in practice and going hard at the starters as a member of the second team, just to send a message.
That was nearly 12 years ago. Jordan’s frustration remains the same today and he’s flabbergasted at the way some players conduct themselves. Remember the infamous Malik Monk head slap?
So, between all of that and the other ventures he has going like 23XI Racing, there are still plenty of ways Jordan can get his competitive fix.
Will this move be a good thing in the long run?
No one can say for sure. There are plenty of factors that have to be addressed. It’s going to all depend on how Plotkin and Schnall want to run the franchise. Do they open up the coffers and give the general manager a blank check to make the Hornets a winner?
Do they chase the next new, shiny object, whether that’s an upper-level executive or a high-priced free agent they may have to overpay to bring to town? Do they mettle and overrule their top decision visionaries?
Save for a few things, not much is known about the organization’s new forces. Until we get to speak with Plotkin and Schnall, their exact governing style will remain a mystery.