Behind The Scenes

Rovell and MJ help kickoff SportsCenter’s NBA opening week multi-site presence

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The NBA on ESPN returns Wednesday with a season-opening doubleheader at 8 p.m. ET when Chicago visits New York followed by Portland hosting Oklahoma City at 10:30 p.m. On Friday, Cleveland visits Chicago at 8 p.m. before the Los Angeles Clippers meet the Lakers at 10:30 p.m..

SportsCenter originates from the Hard Rock Café in San Antonio today, from 4th Street in Cleveland on Thursday, and from Chicago’s United Center on Friday to recognize the tip-off of the 2014-15 NBA season. SportsCenter coverage will span nine states in the four days. For more details, visit ESPN MediaZone.

It has been quite a few years since ESPN had an on-camera, sit-down interview with Basketball Hall of Famer and Charlotte Hornets majority owner Michael Jordan.

ESPN business reporter Darren Rovell made up for lost time on Monday in a wide-ranging discussion with “Air Jordan,” portions of which are currently running on SportsCenter as part of the show’s massive presence (see sidebar) surrounding the NBA’s opening week. (Additional elements from the one-on-one chat will roll out over the next couple of days.)

“The interview came about because he’s at a good point right now,” Rovell said. “How bad it had to be for him – he’s the ultimate winner, and to buy a team, then a year later, the team has the worst record in NBA history – I knew it ate away at him. Now, heading into his fifth year, he’s at the turning point where he can be a winner as an owner.”

Rovell and producer Jonathan Whyley visited with Jordan Monday afternoon at the Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte for twice as much time as they thought they would.

“Michael was great,” said Whyley. “What was supposed to be a sit down interview turned into an hour-long tour of the building. Michael showed his new hands-on approach as an owner. He even stopped to talk to a worker who was painting a wall near the locker room to tell him exactly how he wanted it!”

Jordan told Rovell, “I’m always dreaming about that 7th ring, always. And to get to that would be much more gratifying than the six, all the other six that I’ve actually won.”

“He’s one of those guys who has done it on the court and off the court, so to me he’s the perfect interview,” Rovell said. “Originally Michael wasn’t in favor of [the Hornet’s re-branding] – he didn’t want to go back to the purple and teal, he didn’t want to go back to the past.

“But they did a lot of polling and listening to fans,” he said, “and that’s a cool part of the evolution of Michael Jordan – he might have gone ‘No, I don’t want to go back to the Hornets’, but now he’s listening to other people.”

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