Meet Michael Jordan’s Right-Hand Man: Curtis Polk

by December 26, 2011
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The Charlotte Observer pulls the curtain back a bit on the inner workings of the Bobcats, by profiling Curtis Polk, one of the few people on planet Earth who can get away with telling Michael Jordan “No”. Be sure to read the whole thing, as it is fascinating: “Only Michael Jordan, the team owner and arguably the best basketball player ever, outranks Polk in authority. Though Polk works directly for Jordan, rather than the Bobcats, his power within the organization is clear. Here’s how a team executive, who asked to remain anonymous, described Polk’s monthly visits to Charlotte: ‘Everyone is answerable to Curtis.’ Polk has advised Jordan on all things financial for over 20 years. He counts among his greatest accomplishments reworking Jordan’s relationship with Nike after Jordan retired from playing. Polk convinced Nike that Jordan’s value as an endorser would still thrive after he stopped playing. Jordan Brand has nearly tripled in value since Jordan first retired, continuing as a leader in basketball-shoe sales and jumping into baseball, football and other sports. Polk, 52, holds the title of vice chairman of the Bobcats, who open their lockout-delayed season Monday at Time Warner Cable Arena versus the Milwaukee Bucks. He’s also the franchise’s ‘alternate governor’ – NBA jargon for the official with the power to speak and vote for the Bobcats at league meetings in Jordan’s absence. Polk also is the person charged with telling Jordan no. An impatient, hyper-competitive personality, Jordan knows he needs a balance to his sometimes-impulsive style, as the team builds toward what would be the first sustainable success in the franchise’s seven NBA seasons. When Jordan faces a major decision, and Polk says, ‘Don’t!’ Jordan will listen, think long and hard, and usually agree. But they debate, passionately and profanely, sometimes for hours at a time. ‘We’ll go on and on like that, but we listen to each other,’ Jordan told the Observer. ‘He’s ideal, because I’m definitely the guy who believes the glass is half-full and he’s the glass-half-empty guy.’ That’s why Jordan needs Polk, why he has instilled him with so much quiet power to scrutinize: Over time he’s come to emphatically trust Polk’s intellect and conviction. Player-agent David Falk, who brought these two together, says the beauty is Polk has both the confidence to tell Jordan when he’s about to make a mistake and the security not to be bruised if Jordan disregards Polk’s counsel. Polk’s role is to use his financial background to analyze Jordan’s next moves. He’s the pessimist searching for the downside to Jordan’s optimism. ‘(Michael) always thinks he can conquer anything,’ Polk told the Observer last spring.”