NEW YORK — After all those championships and MVP awards, Michael Jordan has finally arrived — on the cover of a basketball video game.
Jordan fronts NBA 2K11, a game that allows fans to add Jordan to their favorite team — if they can first replicate some of his greatest highlights.
One of sports’ top pitchmen during his Hall of Fame playing career, Jordan had never before appeared on the cover of an NBA-licensed basketball game.
Now the owner of the Charlotte Bobcats, the six-time champion with the Chicago Bulls said Thursday the deciding factor in doing it now was the opportunity “to connect to this generation, when in essence a lot of these young kids never saw me play.”
“They do remember me from ‘Space Jam,’ but not from basketball,” Jordan said. “So I felt like this would be a good opportunity to kind of expose them to that.”
Jordan had input in the development of the game, which was released Tuesday and includes features such as the “Flu Game” and the “Shrug Game.” The five-time MVP said he’s received great response, adding that his boys are “totally going crazy.”
To obtain Jordan for their team, players first have to unlock him by completing the “Jordan Challenge,” a series of 10 of Jordan’s most memorable performances that he helped select.
Among them are his 63-point performance against Larry Bird and eventual champion Boston in 1986, and Chicago’s Game 5 victory over Utah in the 1997 NBA finals, when Jordan shook off an illness to lead the Bulls within a victory of another title. There’s also a 1992 finals game against Portland, when Jordan could only shrug after hitting his sixth 3-pointer of the first half — which the video game character also does.
“To me the toughest was probably the flu game under the circumstances, what I had to deal with to play and what was at stake at that time,” Jordan said. “And the easiest of the ones that was on the list was probably the 63-point game, which is the only game I probably lost of all the highlights.”
Once that’s been completed, fans can place a rookie Jordan onto their current team as if he were in the 2010 NBA draft. In a commercial promoting the game, Kobe Bryant obtains the six-time champion for his Los Angeles Lakers.
Jordan, of course, would rather compete against the top players than join them.
“Would I do it? No. But can a kid do it?” Jordan said. “Can a Laker fan do it? Yeah. I think that’s the beautiful part of the game.”
In real life, Jordan is focused now on building a team. He returned from a trip to the Ryder Cup to watch his Bobcats fall to 0-2 in the preseason with a 97-93 loss to Oklahoma City on Wednesday.
Charlotte made its first playoff appearance last season, then lost point guard Raymond Felton when he signed with the New York Knicks. D.J. Augustin is now the starter, and Jordan said he doesn’t need an upgrade.
“I got a point guard. I got two, actually,” he said. “So I mean, I’m always looking to better the scenario if any other All-Star point guards become available. Sure, I’d be willing to talk, but as of right now I’m happy with what I have.”
The Bobcats could have landed Nets point guard Devin Harris in the collapsed four-team proposal that would have sent Carmelo Anthony from Denver to New Jersey. Charlotte coach Larry Brown covets solid play at the position, and there’s been speculation he’ll lobby Jordan to obtain someone.
“That’s Larry,” Jordan said. “If you know Larry, Larry wants to always (have) the highest. He would love to get a marquee point guard as we would all, but I mean, as of right now we have a point guard and we have to support him until things change.”
The video-game Bobcats have no such problem. They can do what the real team never can: get Jordan out of the front office and into uniform.