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Michael Jordan became bridge between owners, players in talks

Kurt Helin explains why LeBron James was key in continuing talks that eventually led the NBA deciding to resume the 2020 playoffs.

Michael Jordan is on the Mount Rushmore of greatest NBA players ever.

He is also the owner of the Charlotte Hornets — and the only Black majority owner of an NBA team.

That put Michael Jordan in the unique position of being able to be a bridge two key parties as the NBA moved through the unprecedented last 24 hours — the Milwaukee Bucks deciding not to play a playoff game, a players’ meeting that almost ended the season, then a tentative return to games this weekend.

Jordan reached out to Chris Paul Wednesday night to hear the players’ concerns and plans, then MJ served as a bridge between the players and owners, reports Jackie MacMullan of ESPN. The report adds that Jordan was the voice of reason on the Board of Governors’ call with other owners, telling them to be patient and let the players vent their frustrations and feelings before offering their ideas for next steps.

“Right now, listening is better than talking,” Jordan told the group, according to sources...

Many of the owners, including Jordan, sources said, favored continuing the season, believing that the games were still the best and most visible platform for social change. The owners will meet again later Thursday to discuss specific ways in which they can help the players meet their goals while continuing to compete for an NBA title, as well as to discuss the scheduling of the resumption of play in the bubble.

The owners said on the call — and have said in other settings — they believe in Black Lives Matter and social justice. Even if they have not individually always put their money and influence behind that cause.

What the owners heard this afternoon from players in a joint call was that players wanted to see more concrete actions, not just another donation of money. The Houston Rockets announced Tuesday the Toyota Center in Houston will be used as a vote center, both in the run-up to the November election and on election day. That’s a start. The owners are able to use their money and influence to do things like get arenas built (sometimes with taxpayer money involved. Players want to see that kind of effort on things like police reform in cities.

Jordan has put money behind these causes as well. Nike and the Jordan brand have combined to donate $3 million (total) to the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the NAACP Empowerment Program, and Black Girls Code.

Jordan’s role in moving the NBA forward, however, is much larger than that.