By David Glenn

With Michael Jordan receiving official league approval Sunday for his sale of the Charlotte Hornets, the National Basketball Association team he’s owned since 2010, one very basic question is worth asking.

Should Jordan’s time as the majority owner of the Hornets be considered an “awe$ome” victory … or a miserable failure?

As odd as this might sound, the bottom-line answer could be the one at either extreme. It depends entirely on your point of view.

Jordan, 60, often has said that his competitive fire and will to win formed the foundation for his truly awesome success on and off the court, but — competitively speaking — his 13 seasons as the Hornets’ majority owner were an absolute disaster.

Famously relegated to junior varsity status as a high school sophomore, Jordan went on to become a McDonald’s and Parade All-American at Wilmington’s Laney High School, then an NCAA champion (1982), a two-time consensus first-team All-American (1983-84), the national college player of the year (1984) and a celebrated early NBA entry during his three years playing for legendary coach Dean Smith and the North Carolina Tar Heels.

In the NBA, of course, Jordan became arguably the Greatest Of All-Time: a six-time champion with the Chicago Bulls, six-time Finals Most Valuable Player (still the most ever), five-time league MVP, 14-time All-Star, 11-time All-NBA selection, 10-time scoring champion (still the most ever) and nine-time first-team All-Defense honoree.

Even two full decades after his 2003 retirement as a player, Jordan also still holds the NBA’s all-time career records for regular-season scoring average (30.1 points per game) and playoff scoring average (33.4).

From a strictly competitive standpoint, however, Jordan’s decade-plus leading the Hornets was a complete and total embarrassment.

The Hornets’ official announcement last month of the team’s pending sale inspired various reviews of the franchise’s full history (starting in 1988) and its time under Jordan (2010-23), and neither type of synopsis allowed for a pretty picture.

Whereas the Carolina Panthers of the National Football League have played in two Super Bowls (after the 2003 and 2015 seasons), and the Carolina Hurricanes of the National Hockey League have won a Stanley Cup (2006), the Hornets/Bobcats have never made it past the NBA’s conference semifinals, and they haven’t won even a single playoff series since 2002.

On Jordan’s watch, Charlotte made the playoffs only twice in 13 seasons, losing in the first round both times, and that’s in a sport where more than half the teams (16 of 30) advance to the postseason each year. The Hornets’ 423-600 record during that stretch was fifth-worst in the NBA, and in 2022-23 they missed the playoffs for the seventh year in a row.

In short, under Jordan, the Hornets were the dregs of the NBA.

Spoiler alert: The “on the other hand” aspect of this particular story is about as extreme a pivot as one can imagine.

Just as a popular 2023 movie is celebrating Jordan’s truly unprecedented levels of success with Nike as a businessman, the numbers behind his 2010 purchase and imminent sale of the Hornets are truly staggering, as NBA commissioner Adam Silver referenced during this year’s NBA championship series.

“In the same way that it’s wonderful that one of our greatest, Michael Jordan, could become the principal governor of a team, he has the absolute right to sell at the same time,” Silver said. “(Franchise) values have gone up a lot since he bought that team, so that is his decision.”

Incredibly, given the team’s relatively small market size, overwhelmingly poor on-court performances, and long-term “afterthought” status in both the professional basketball and state of North Carolina media universes, Jordan is selling the Hornets for the seventh-highest price for a sports team in history.

That’s #7 in any sport, any league, any country, in the history of the world.


World’s Highest-Priced Sports Franchise Sales

Team, League, Year Sold, Reported Sales Price

1-Washington Commanders, NFL, 2023, $6.05 billion

2-Denver Broncos, NFL, 2022, $4.65 billion

3-Phoenix Suns, NBA, 2023, $4 billion

4-Brooklyn Nets, NBA, 2019, $3.3 billion

5-Milwaukee Bucks, NBA, 2023, $3.2 billion

6-Chelsea, Premier League (English soccer), 2022, $3.16 billion

7-Charlotte Hornets, NBA, 2023, $3 billion

8-New York Mets, MLB, 2020, $2.42 billion

9-Carolina Panthers, NFL, 2018, $2.28 billion

10-Houston Rockets, NBA, 2017, $2.2 billion


Jordan’s exact profit will be difficult to determine, for several reasons.

First, he’s never owned 100 percent of the Hornets. He initially purchased a minority stake in the Charlotte Bobcats in 2006, then (after the franchise brought back the Hornets nickname) bought his majority stake in 2010. Jordan’s majority ownership share in the team reportedly has ranged from 80 to 90 percent.

Second, even with this transaction, Jordan will retain a minority stake in the Hornets. That exact percentage has not been made public, making specific calculations impossible.

Finally, while it’s known that Jordan purchased his majority share in the Hornets back when the total transaction was priced at $275 million, there were reports that his contribution then (in 2010) was “only” $175 million, and part of that number included the assumption of debt.

Turning $275 million (or $175 million or any similar amount) into $3 billion over a 13-year period with just a single investment vehicle is quite a feat. Clearly, anyone who wants to “be like Mike” will need significant financial acumen to go with his or her basketball prowess.

Regardless of how the financial numbers and accounting details ultimately shake out, Jordan clearly has maximized his 13-year Hornets investment, turning a truly legendary profit in the process.

That certainly counts as yet another enormous financial win for Jordan, even as he closes the book on one of the worst competitive failures of his extraordinary life and career.

David Glenn ( is an award-winning author, broadcaster, editor, entrepreneur, publisher, speaker, writer and university lecturer (now at UNC Wilmington) who has covered sports in North Carolina since 1987. does not charge subscription fees, and you can directly support our efforts in local journalism here. Want more of what you see on Chapelboro? Let us bring free local news and community information to you by signing up for our biweekly newsletter.