The MJ Effect: Fill ’em up?

In 930 NBA games, Michael Jordan averaged more than 30 points a game, shooting 50 percent from the floor, 80 percent at the free throw line and 33 percent beyond the arc. He won five MVP awards and six World Championships. Michael Jordan has done it all. But can he fill seats at the MCI Center?

Apparently so.

After Jordan announced his return to the NBA as a Washington Wizard, ticket sales across the NBA and at the MCI Center shot up. The Wizards have already sold out eight games this season, including four pre-season games against New Jersey, Boston, Detroit and Toronto. There are tickets remaining for all November basketball games in the $45-175 range, according Ticketmaster’s Web site.

“We have not played in a pre-season or regular season game that has not sold out, and there is no way of telling when or if that’s going to stop,” a Wizards spokesman from press relations said. He noted the Wizards sold out seven games last year.

“The first three Wizards game of the season are televised on national television, a claim even the Lakers can’t make,” the spokesman said. The season opener against the Knicks game was televised on TBS, the home opener against the 76ers was televised on NBC and the team’s next home game against Golden State will be televised on TNT.

The MJ effect hit New York as well. In the season opener at a sold-out Madison Square Garden Oct. 30, fans paid as much as $100,000 for courtside seats, according to ESPN.com.

About 500 additional press passes were issued for the game, which was attended by such celebrities as Joe Frazier, Michael Keaton, Kevin Bacon, Mark Messier, Heidi Klum and Carson Daily.

A front-row seat next to Knicks super-fan Spike Lee went for $101,300 – about 10 times normal face value – on a Yahoo! Auction benefiting the Uniformed Firefighters Association Widows’ and Children’s Fund. Rich Goodwin, senior brand manager at Yahoo! said on ESPN.com the auction drew the most page views for a single item since the auctions started three years ago.

It seems Jordan is drawing fans into Wizards cyberspace as well. The team’s official Web site rose from 26th-most visited to the second-most visited NBA Web site.

So, is Jordan’s appeal enticing enough to draw GW students into the MCI Center?

Yes.

“A player like Michael Jordan is the Babe Ruth of basketball. There’s only one and there will always be one,” junior David Kay said. “So, now that he’s not a Bull, I’ll definitely pay $100 for a ticket.”

While some GW students have visited the MCI Center to see the Wizards in previous years, they were not knocking down doors to do it. Most trips to see the Wizards were through a group trip, a fraternity or other campus group that got group rates. But Jordan has changed all that.

Other students said seeing Jordan is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that they refuse to miss.

“I never got to see him play, and now I have a second chance to see one of the greatest players of all time,” junior Neil Seecharan said. “I used to watch all the games on TV, but now with MJ there, I want to go to the games and see the crowd and get the true experience.”

Some students say they are more likely to attend the games this season because Jordan makes the Wizards an exciting team.

“The Wizards were horrible last year. The only reason to attend a game was to watch the other team play,” sophomore Jon LaBuz said. “Now with Jordan back, it gives Wizards fans a reason to come out and cheer.”

Sophomore Amy Fielder, who went to the Wizard’s pre-season opener
against the Nets, agrees that Jordan brings some much-needed excitement to the Wizards.

“I wouldn’t have wanted to go if Jordan wasn’t there, it would have been a waste of a good Saturday night.” Fielder added: “Jordan was money, everyone went crazy every time he did anything. Even if it was just to get off the bench.”

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