The Business of Sports

Six Degrees of Michael Jordan


His Airness Michael Jordan has been around, over, and in the news quite a bit over the past week, as have others under his considerable sway. Here's how they connect.

• Jordan was announced as next principal owner of the Charlotte Bobcats, making Jordan the first former player to own a controlling interest in an NBA franchise. Only "a living, breathing, flying brand," as ESPN put it, no mere mortal athlete, would be able to afford the estimated $240 million it cost him to buy the majority stake. Jordan's upcoming tenure as Bobcats owner can make or break his reputation as an absentee sports executive, as he was accused of being with both the Washington Wizards and the Bobcats, and will likely bring the franchise some star-power draw and marketing sizzle as well.

• Outbound owner Robert Johnson is said to have personally absorbed in the neighborhood of $80 million in operating losses from his seven-year Bobcat ownership (he paid $300 million for the franchise in 2003). To the unpopular owner, Charlotte fans say, "Don't let the arena door hit you on the way out, Bob."

• LeBron James' decision last week to change his Cavaliers jersey number to 6 from 23 "to honor Michael Jordan" is still being met with derision. While James claimed that giving Jordan his due was his only motivation, sports merchandising experts point to the millions in merchandise sales James will make, not only from new replica jersey sales, but also from all the ancillary merchandise sales potential from a number that's singular to him.

• Starting Mar. 19, Comcast will stream live telecasts of the Chicago Bulls' final six regular-season games and the first round of the NBA Playoffs on CSNChicago.com. Games played by Jordan's former team will be available free to eligible subscribers; fans will also have full DVR controls online and access to Facebook, Twitter, and chat rooms with CSN Chicago anchors.

• Speaking of Facebook, the NBA has now eclipsed 2 million followers on its official Facebook page, easily the biggest social networking presence among major pro sports franchises and double the league's total of just eight months ago. The NBA will mark the Facebook milestone with promotional elements that include personalized video messages from such players as Dwight Howard and Shaq and a discount code to NBAStore.com. More tellingly, the NBA's growing Facebook presence has increased the value of advertising and sponsorship packages and enabled the league's marketing executives to sell the Facebook element to corporate sponsors as a key media tool alongside broadcast, cable, and other digital platforms, according to SportsBusiness Daily.

• And for nearly the first time in a generation, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where Jordan led his team to a national championship in 1982, will not make the NCAA tournament. A bad ACC tournament for the 16-15 Tar Heels, who ended their worst regular season under head coach Roy Williams with a 82-50 loss to Duke on Saturday, could pop their NIT bubble as well.

Rick_horrow
Rick Horrow is a leading expert in the business of sports. As chief executive officer of Horrow Sports Ventures, he has been the architect of 103 deals worth more than $13 billion in sports and urban infrastructure projects. He is also the sports business analyst for CNN, Fox Sports, and the Fox Business Channel. Karla Swatek is vice-president of Horrow Sports Ventures and co-author of Beyond the Box Score: An Insider's Guide to the $750 Billion Business of Sports (2010). Horrow is also the host of Sportfolio, a new program on Bloomberg TV that airs Wednesday nights at 9 pm ET.

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