Thursday, January 20
MJ anything but Falk's puppet
By Ray Ratto
Special to

    "That mustachioed fourflusher."
    -- Atlanta Braves general manager Paul Richards on Marvin Miller, 1969.

It is the greatest quote in the history of sports labor, because it explains in three words what every management person in history feels about every player advocate. Every other remark either has more verbiage, or its sentiments are more diffuse. Even when you discount the archaic language, you know exactly what Richards thought of the man who built the modern players union.

Michael Jordan, of course, is retired from the NBA, but powerful agent David Falk remains aligned with MJ, as well as many other players. Here is a complete list of Falk's NBA clients.

Kenny Anderson, Celtics
Brent Barry, Sonics
Jonathan Bender, Pacers
Mike Bibby, Grizzlies
Muggsy Bogues, Raptors
Shawn Bradley, Mavericks
Elton Brand, Bulls
Kobe Bryant, Lakers
Sam Cassell, Bucks
Rex Chapman, Suns
Baron Davis, Hornets
Michael Doleac, Magic
Patrick Ewing, Knicks
Adonal Foyle, Warriors
Matt Geiger, 76ers
Othella Harrington, Grizzlies
Juwan Howard, Wizards
Larry Hughes, 76ers
Mark Jackson, Pacers
Antawn Jamison, Warriors
Kerry Kittles, Nets
Raef LaFrentz, Nuggets
Trajan Langdon, Cavaliers
Felipe Lopez, Grizzlies
Stephon Marbury, Nets
Tracy McGrady, Raptors
Roshown McLeod, Hawks
Reggie Miller, Pacers
Chris Mills, Warriors
Alonzo Mourning, Heat
Lamond Murray, Cavaliers
Tracy Murray, Wizards
Dikembe Mutombo, Hawks
Jermaine O'Neal, Trail Blazers
Will Perdue, Bulls
Vitaly Potapenko, Celtics
Bryant Reeves, Grizzlies
Glen Rice, Lakers
Jalen Rose, Pacers
Malik Sealy, Timberwolves
Rod Strickland, Wizards
Bob Sura, Cavaliers
Maurice Taylor, Clippers
Tim Thomas, Bucks
Keith Van Horn, Nets
Antoine Walker, Celtics

Note: These are the clients of the SFX Sports Group, which Falk heads. Not all work directly with Falk.

Which brings us to the musical question:

When will Michael Jordan call David Falk "That bald, 56-megabyte fourflusher"?

Jordan's ascension into the man who would save the Washington Wizards from themselves has created a fair bit of stir, as you might guess. Of course, Jordan shaving a cat would create a fair bit of stir, but that's our problem (and the cat's, for that matter) rather than his.

Along the way, though, some folks started wondering if he might not start cutting Falk, his longtime agent and friend, some inappropriate slack on behalf of his current client list. You know, just as a way of saying thanks for those $350 million Falk helped generate.

Lord, the things we think sometimes.

Jordan's return to the NBA's front-and-center comes at a time when crowds and interest are plainly down, although the general manager hasn't been born yet who could materially affect either attendance or television ratings. They are, after all, disingenuous guys in suits -- you know, just like your boss.

It is Jordan's potentially conflicted relationship with Falk that raises eyebrows among people who are way too inside for their own mental well-being. Why, they ask, wouldn't Jordan work, with Abe Pollin's and Ted Leonsis' money at the ready, to the benefit of the members of the Falk stable?

The answer to that is simple. Because he is Michael Jordan.

If that seems flip to you, well, you're wrong, so shut up and read. Michael Jordan did not get to be Michael Jordan by not doing what was in Michael Jordan's best interests, or by doing what was not in Michael Jordan's best interests. What is in Michael Jordan's best interests today is to elevate the Wizards from the gaseous, festering, bacillus-riddled death trench in which they currently reside. That way, he would not only be considered one of the century's greatest athletes, but a master at front office machinations, at which athletes have not traditionally excelled.

To put it another way, if Jordan bombs, that's on him.

Secondly, Jordan is not one to see the inherent good in pure charity on the court. One of the most striking facets of his game was its Darwinism. When it comes to basketball, he doesn't deal in favors. He deals in results.

To put it another way, in basketball dealings, Jordan's friends work with him or for him. Everyone else is on their own.

Thirdly, there is still the salary cap, and money he errantly throws at Falk clients just because they are Falk clients is money he wouldn't have for guys who could help. The Wizards have names, but they don't have a cohesive team, which is to say they're playing .300 basketball with cap problems.

To put it another way, Jordan can't afford generosity without purpose.

Fourthly, and this is the big one, Michael Jordan owes David Falk nothing. Michael Jordan made David Falk an extraordinary amount of money in his time, which is recompense enough. Plus, Falk was the employee in this relationship, selling Jordan at Jordan's behest, not the other way around. They get along well because they have thrived under the relationship, but Falk did not beget Jordan, Jordan begat Falk.

To put it another way, there's no quid pro quo at work here, at least not with the kind of quid NBA players make these days.

David Falk
Michael Jordan says David Falk works for him, not the other way around.

And as Jordan said in his news conference: "I will make my own decisions."

In sum, whatever issues Michael Jordan might have in trying to put earrings and a gown on this wolverine, being excessively generous to David Falk won't be one of them. If Falk brings him signable players who can help the Wizards stop being the Wizards, they can do deals in three minutes. If Falk brings him a two-guard who can't shoot, or a point guard who can't pass, or a four who can't rebound, or a five whose playing idol was Benoit Benjamin, it's no deal, even if Falk brings the turkey on Thanksgiving.

At least, it better be no deal. Otherwise, the Wizards will remain the Wizards, and Jordan's reputation as the third milennium's first Renaissance Man will be seriously damaged. You know how well that will play in his bathroom mirror every morning.

So worry not your pretty little brain about whether Michael Jordan is going to turn Washington into David Falk's personal ATM. He'll do what helps him first, last and always.

If you doubt that, just wait for the first spirited negotiating session. If you see Jordan at a press conference calling Falk "that doorknob-headed extortionist," you may rest easy. Paul Richards will be avenged.

Ray Ratto of the San Francisco Examiner is a regular contributor to

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