Michael Jordan is getting a lot of run lately, as the very good documentary entitled “The Last Dance” is airing. MJ was the best of his time, and probably all-time on the hardwood.
But did you know or remember when he had a short time of being a partial NHL owner? It’s true, it was in the 2000-01 NHL season as Jordan got involved with Ted Leonsis’ group — a move that would culminate in Jordan coming out of retirement to play for the
Bullets, uhh Wizards for a few seasons. But this was interesting read on a quarantine day that has a few Mario Lemieux mentions along the way.
A few excerpts:
On the ownership side of the deal, Jordan received a reported 10% stake in the Wizards that had the option to grow to 20%. As part of his ownership stake in Lincoln Holdings, Jordan ended up owning a “substantial” 12% of the Washington Capitals.
By buying into the Wizards, Michael Jordan, NHL owner, was born.
I don’t think I ever knew that Michael Jordan was actually a part-owner of the Capitals, once upon a time.
Jordan’s addition to the NHL came at a time when prominent players were involved in team ownership. Wayne Gretzky was approved one day earlier as a part-owner of the Phoenix Coyotes. Mario Lemieux, who owned the Pittsburgh Penguins, had just announced he was returning to play for the first time since 1997.
“Mario and I are very good friends,” Jordan said at the time. “He actually notified me a week ago of his announcement. I support that. Obviously, he has a love for hockey like I do for basketball. We all wish him well — except when he’s playing our team.”
Unfortunately for Jordan, he found himself on the wrong end of a historically lopsided matchup. Lemieux came back to score 35 goals and 76 points in 43 points in 2001, and the Penguins dispatched the Capitals in six games in the first round of the NHL playoffs.
It would turn out to be Jordan’s only year involved with the Caps. Partially seeing Lemieux’s success on the ice helped stir the desire to get back in the game himself, and he ended up selling his interests in the Wizards and Caps to become a player.
“Seeing me come back and the excitement, and me doing pretty well right off the bat, gave him the confidence to start training,” Lemieux said in 2001.
Speculation about Jordan’s comeback started raging — ESPN began running a daily “Jordan’s Return-O-Meter” — and the Penguins star started fueling it, too. “He’s going to give it a shot and he’s working very hard. He’s taking his time, he’s taking a few months to get ready, but I’m sure when he gets back, he’ll be the best player again,” Lemieux said.
On Sept. 25, 2001, Jordan, 38, officially announced he would return to the NBA and play for the Wizards, agreeing to a two-year deal and donating his $1 million salary to the victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. “
So there you have it. A fun story about two legends and all-time greats in Lemieux and Jordan crossing paths a bit and being intertwined in each other’s pursuit of later life athletics.
And a fun kicker that in his lone season as a NHL owner, Michael Jordan’s team was no match for Mario and the Pens on the ice. Bad Boy Detroit Pistons and the Pittsburgh Penguins. Two classic MJ playoff foils.