THERE'S A RIGHT WAY and a wrong way to get more fans to come out to watch your basketball team.
The right way? Sign Allen Iverson. The wrong way? Mislead fans into thinking Michael Jordan will play.
The latter is what the owner of the Utah Flash - which plays in the NBA Development League - did.
On Monday night, more than 7,500 fans showed up to see Jordan play against former Utah Jazz guard Bryon Russell at halftime of the Flash's home opener against the Dakota Wizards.
Flash owner Brandt Andersen conceived the idea in September after hearing Jordan's Hall of Fame induction speech in which he took shots at Russell and others who guarded him throughout his career. And, there is the famous play in which Jordan pushed off Russell before sinking the jumper that gave the Bulls a win over the Jazz in Game 6 of the 1998 NBA Finals.
Andersen offered to donate $100,000 to the winning player's charity. He even sent a Jordan look-alike around town (Orem, Utah) to promote the event. Just one problem: While Russell was onboard, the real Jordan was not.
According to the Salt Lake Tribune, Russell walked on the court at halftime and yelled to the crowd, "I'm ready to play." Then, a Jordan impersonator surrounded by bodyguards entered the arena. When Russell saw the fake Jordan, he said, "This is embarrassing right now."
The look-alike left the court without playing Russell.
Afterward, Andersen said he always planned to use the look-alike for publicity purposes but held out hope to the very end that the real Jordan would show up.
"This was done in fun," Andersen wrote on his blog. "If you did not see it as fun or you feel we went over the top I am sorry."
Andersen said the Flash will provide free tickets to an upcoming home game to everyone who attended Monday night's game.
He also wrote that Julius Erving will take on Larry Bird at the Flash's next home game.
- Tom Mahon