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DTL
05-09-2002, 11:50 AM
Impact player
May 9
by Marty Burns, Sports Illustrated



Grizzlies owner Michael Heisley was attending a Georgetown University alumni function earlier this season when he spotted Wizards co-owner Ted Leonsis. "I went over to him and gave him a big hug," Heisley recalled. "And I told him to thank Michael for me."

Heisley, like most NBA owners, knows who was the real MVP of the 2001-02 season.

Forget Tim Duncan or Jason Kidd.

The guy who made the biggest impact, at least in terms of dollars, was once again Michael Jordan.

No other player generated more revenue for the NBA and its 29 teams this season than did the 39-year-old Wizards forward. Thanks to him, the NBA posted an attendance increase this season. Thanks to him, there probably won't be a luxury tax.

"We don't give [the MVP] out on the basis of finances," NBA deputy commissioner Russ Granik joked. "But I think it's fair to say Michael had a very positive impact for us."

With Jordan on the roster, the Wizards had the biggest jump in average attendance (from 15,577 last year to 20,674 this season) for a total of 375,715 more paying customers than last season, according to NBA figures. Yet the league overall only posted a 225,184 increase, meaning Washington pushed it over the top.

We can safely assume those fans weren't paying to watch Popeye Jones.

Jordan also made a clear impact on TV ratings, which were up a reported 3 percent on NBC and as high as 9 percent on the Turner cable network. Wizards games were suddenly must-see TV for hoops fans, and it came early in the season, when the networks most needed it. The league later signed a new six-year TV deal with ABC, ESPN and AOL Time Warner said to be worth some $2.4 billion.

"It was the best of all worlds for us," NBA commissioner David Stern told Business Week magazine. "We were in the post-Jordan era, and we had MJ."

Perhaps most amazingly, Jordan's impact appears to have killed the dreaded luxury tax in which teams above a certain payroll figure would have had to pay extra money back to the league. With higher revenue than expected, the tax isn't expected to be triggered until next season. Several GMs have dubbed it "The Jordan Effect."

"I would say that basically if there isn't a luxury tax this year, it's going to be because of Michael," agrees Nuggets GM Kiki Vandeweghe. "He's phenomenal. It's just amazing that one person could have such an impact."

Jordan didn't fare too badly on the court, either. Although he had to shut it down late in the season because of a bum knee, he still managed to average 22.9 points, 5.7 rebounds and 5.2 assists. More impressive, he helped the Wizards go from 19 to 37 wins and become a playoff contender.

For those reasons, maybe Jordan should get the MVP trophy. Or at least a hug from some of his fellow owners.

"He's probably been worth $2 to $3 million for [our team] alone," Heisley says. "Every owner in the league should thank him."

Drbio
05-10-2002, 07:22 AM
MJ isn't in the top 25 anymore. Maybe worse than that.


but he does sell stuff.