TrueHoop: Brandt Andersen

The Michael Jordan isn't real, and neither is Santa

December, 8, 2009
Abbott By Henry Abbott
Of course by now you know that Michael Jordan did not show up in Utah to play one-on-one against Bryon Russell. Instead, the Utah Flash owner had a lookalike take the court to boos, which you can watch. It might turn your stomach.

In talking up the event, Utah Flash owner Brandt Andersen said this, of whether or not Michael Jordan would really be there: "We've had some conversations, and I think there's a good possibility that he's going to be here. He'll say no he's not. If you ask him straight on he'll say no he won't. If you ask his people they'll say no he won't. You know what, I've probably said too much. But I think there's a good chance he might be here. Let's leave it at that."

Today Andersen writes on his blog that he always planned to have a Jordan:

At the beginning of the season we decided this was going to be a season of fun. The economy has made things tough for a lot of people and we wanted to find ways to have fun, at least for a few hours. On the court we want to win, but off the court we are going to embrace the fact we are a minor league team, and therefore do crazy fun promotion in the hope to get people talking about the team.

Since putting out the challenge to B Russ and MJ and the charity of their choice we have tried to put the pressure on MJ to join us. I even told them if they did not want Michael to play they could promote the potential for another event just by having him here. I knew I would not know if MJ was going to attend until a few hours before game time. I never received the call indicating he would not attend. Which was to be expected with the mighty Air Jordan.

This is like one of those moments when somebody tells a joke that nobody finds funny. It's not evil or mean, it's just tone-deaf. And Andersen is offering free tickets to another Flash game to anyone who was there and was disappointed.

I'm not sure that's the gift people are looking for, however. His blog has comments, and while Andersen does have some supporters, it's clear the bait-and-switch killed the "fun" vibe Andersen was going for. This anonymous comment is typical:

It was hard enough on me, as it pretty much ruined my night, so I can only imagine how hard it was on the little kids that were invited to the game. It played with their emotions like telling them Santa was coming and leaving them hanging with nothing.

Some people I know, including myself, spent hours trying to round up tickets to have a chance at seeing MJ with their friends, and it was all for nothing. I understand the need for a backup plan, but it shouldn't have been such a brutal, harsh fakeout. The most common response I've heard is "What the crap were they thinking? I'm never going to a Utah Flash game again!" and I honestly share the same opinion.

I'm sorry, but I just don't think anyone really understands this move. But at least you're trying, I guess. We'll see if you can come up with a better, less destructive stunt to get my and many other people's business back.

If Christmas was ruined for anyone last night, however, here's one shot at restoring the magic. The disappointment of last night created a funny PG-13 YouTube video that culminates in a gift designed to brighten your holidays.

And if that's not the thing to restore the smile to frustrated Jordan fans, here's an unsolicited suggestion: Instead of giving $100,000 to the charity of Jordan or Russell's choice, how about giving the $100,000 to a charity chosen, in some democratic fashion, by the people who attended last night's game? Not sure if that's even possible, but it would certainly be meaningful.

Brandt Andersen owns the D-League team called the Utah Flash.

It's possible you have never heard of the Flash. Which means that Andersen might not be such a big deal to you.

(Don't stop reading! This matters!)

But it's worth noting that he's not just a D-League team owner. In his own way, he's kind of the Mark Cuban of the D-League, in that he's a big spender, an outside-the-box thinker, and a youngster!

He's 30. Which strikes me as extremely young. (It was noteworthy to me when I reached the point that most NBA players were younger than me. Now owners are younger than me too?)

Brandt got where he is first by selling his company -- they made software to help small businesses process credit card transactions -- and then taking his smile and his cash to David Stern to discuss ownership possibilities.

Coach Stern apparently wanted to see the kid prove himself some in the JV, and suggested a D-League affiliate to start.Brandt Andersen

And there is no denying that the kid is tearing up the JV.

He has been spending money like water, including on an in-progress Frank Gehry arena.

In the process Andersen has brought a brand of class, optimism, and deep pockets to a league that is used to long bus rides, small pay checks, and dreams of bigger things.

Recently, Andersen and the Flash made a bit of a splash by hosting the Iranian national team.

Andersen writes on his blog:

I had dinner with several members of the National Team from Iran the other night and it is clear that we are really not so different.

When you ask them what is on their minds it is like any conversation you would have with a friend; providing for family, housing inflation in their neighborhoods, and who their favorite basketball players were growing up.

This trip has been about basketball and building relationships. I think everyone who has been involved with helping to bring them here has been impressed and left with a hope that things will get better between our nations.

Outside the context of basketball, it's worth noting that there are noises being made that the U.S. and Iran could be bracing for war. Saying nice things about anyone should not be news, but in the context of war, powerful people saying nice things about potential adversaries is almost political.

And it gets even more political when you factor in what Brandt told me (and has been reported on Ridiculous Upside): "I have offered," he says, "to take the Flash to Iran next year. I talked to [NBA Deputy Commissioner] Adam Silver about it, I talked to the Iranian delegation. The Iranian delegation is excited. This would be the first NBA team ever to go to Iran. Adam Silver seemed to think it was a good plan. I'm going to push pretty hard."

Personally, I hope the trip happens. Sports have a long history of succeeding in enabling international relations where politics fail. This could be one more such instance.

(Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE/Getty Images)