STEVE REED, AP Sports Writer
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Michael Jordan vowed to restore interest in the Charlotte Hornets when he took over as the franchise’s majority owner in 2010.
That has included bringing the team’s name back to the city and now he has the NBA bringing its All-Star game back to Charlotte.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver announced at the team’s downtown arena Tuesday that the Hornets will host the league’s annual showcase event in 2017.
It is the first time the game will be played in Charlotte since 1991, when the Hornets were one of the more popular teams in the league and regularly among the NBA leaders in attendance despite limited success in the postseason. Jordan hopes hosting All-Star game will be another step in putting the franchise back on the map.
“It’s a constant process to get back to the top,” Jordan said Tuesday. “At one point this team was on top. And we took a long fall.”
Former Hornets owner George Shinn moved the franchise to New Orleans in 2002 following a bitter breakup with city leaders, leaving Charlotte without an NBA franchise for two seasons. The Charlotte Bobcats joined the league as an expansion team in 2004 under owner Bob Johnson, but the connection between the team and the fans failed to flourish.
Jordan has helped restore some of that interest since purchasing the team five years ago.
It has still been a struggle on the court though, as the franchise has fought through some tough seasons including an all-time NBA worst 7-59 record in 2011-12.
“The events we have gone through the past five years is our passage back to the top,” Jordan said. “It’s been a lot of work. … There are a lot of little things you have to do to get to the top. You don’t get to the top laying around in bed. You got to get out of bed and you have to move in the right direction. I had to crack the whip. I had to keep it going.”
Silver said having Jordan, one of the NBA’s most recognized figures, in Charlotte was one of the draws in bringing the All-Star game here.
“I give him an ‘A’ for all of the things that he is doing in the community,” Silver said. “We wouldn’t be bringing an All-Star game to Charlotte if we didn’t think he was an A-level performer in terms of management of a franchise.”
Silver said Jordan has realized it requires a long-term vision for building a successful franchise and there are no shortcuts.
“Michael understood coming in that, like any other business, you only get out what you put into them,” Silver said. “Michael is still in his rookie era of ownership. It’s like players, you learn a lot over the years.”
Jordan, a 14-time NBA All-Star, played in the last game in Charlotte 24 years ago and called it “an honor to bring the game back to the city.”
“The fans will get a chance to see some of the best athletes in the world,” he said.
The city agreed to pay about $30 million in renovations to the arena when the Hornets submitted their All-Star bid. Silver said he’s pleased with the plans that have been made for renovations, which include upgrading the infrastructure, suites and scoreboard.
“The Charlotte Hornets are a first-class organization in this league,” the commissioner said.
The showcase event of the NBA weekend — scheduled for Feb. 19, 2017 — could be a homecoming for Golden State’s Stephen Curry. The NBA MVP grew up in Charlotte and attended nearby Davidson.
But there could be a bigger draw.
Silver said he would welcome the 52-year-old Jordan to play in a celebrity basketball game during All-Star weekend.
“I think there’s a special commissioner’s exemption for owners who want to participate,” Silver said with a laugh. “I’m sure we can find a space for Michael if he’s interested.”
The game will be carried in more than 200 countries and in 40 different languages. Hornets COO Fred Whitfield estimates the economic impact for the Charlotte community will be around $100 million.
Toronto will host next season’s All-Star game.
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