ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
There's a moral to our next story. They don't call the minor leagues the bush leagues for nothing. In basketball they call the NBA's ostensible minor league, the development league, ostensible since professional basketball's real minor league is college and high school basketball. But there are teams like the Utah Flash, who play in Orem, Utah that gives some NBA hopefuls or former hopefuls a chance to play legitimate basketball for money.
So here it was, Monday night, the Flash hosting the Dakota Wizards, 7,542 fans were on hand, most of them probably for the half-time show in which Michael Jordan would play one-on-one with former Utah Jazz star Bryon Russell.
It was billed as a charity rematch of Game 6 of the 1998 NBA finals. Jordan sunk a game-winning jump shot over Russell - Jazz fans were convinced that Jordan fouled him - and the championship went to the Chicago Bulls.
So, there it was, half-time, Monday night, the lights dimmed, NBA-style, the crowd was excited, and Bryon Russell was on the court confronted with his nemesis.
(Soundbite of crowd)
Unidentified Man: (Unintelligible)
HAMILTON: It was not the real Mike, but a Michael Jordan impersonator. And joining us now is the contrite owner of the Utah Flash, Brandt Andersen. Mr. Andersen, what were you thinking?
Mr. BRANDT ANDERSEN (Owner, Utah Flash): You know, when I put the offer out there, I was hoping to give these guys an opportunity to play each other. And then when Michael didn't show, we had put this sort of skit together to try and keep it entertaining, and it obviously, you know, went terribly wrong.
SIEGEL: So that reaction of Bryon Russell was sort of like a World Wrestling-style mock indignation. He was in on the gag at that point.
Mr. ANDERSEN: Yes. I mean, when he went out, he knew Michael Jordan was not there, yes.
SIEGEL: But those 7,000 folks in the seats didn't know that.
Mr. ANDERSEN: I think there were a fair number that felt like he was there.
SIEGEL: Felt like he was there.
Mr. ANDERSEN: Yeah.
SIEGEL: And you've issued an official, formal apology.
Mr. ANDERSEN: Oh, yeah. I'm very sorry. I'm very sorry about, you know, the reaction and the feelings that were hurt. I mean, you know, that was never - it was never our intention. And it is the complete opposite of anything we've ever tried to do.
SIEGEL: I heard, though, that the man who was playing the part of Michael Jordan was around Orem, Utah, a couple of days before and, you know, was trying to drum up a little interest that Michael Jordan might actually be there.
Mr. ANDERSEN: You know, it was actually the day of and it was only hours before. We put him out at a restaurant and filmed him and we leaked it through viral media, through Twitter. And what we didn't think would happen actually happened, which was the local paper picked it up, and they posted it as fact. We were testing some viral media stuff. Unfortunately, I think that started to set a crazed expectation.
SIEGEL: Now, I realize Michael Jordan hasn't been playing basketball for several years right now, so his image in mid-air is very familiar to people, but perhaps not everything else about him. Did your man actually look a lot like Michael Jordan?
Mr. ANDERSEN: No. I mean, that's the other thing about it that - I mean - we could never have put him town, and people thought it was Michael. The guy was only six feet tall.
Mr. ANDERSEN: And, I mean, he�
SIEGEL: Well, Jordan was 6'7", wasn't he?
Mr. ANDERSEN: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, the guy was six feet tall, and maybe�
SIEGEL: Was he bald, at least? Was he�
Mr. ANDERSEN: He was bald.
SIEGEL: Mm-hmm. Right.
Mr. ANDERSEN: But he was bald because of a shaved head, you know, maybe barely - I would say barely looked like Mike other than the fact that, you know, he was, you know, he was bald.
SIEGEL: You were there that evening in the arena when it happened?
Mr. ANDERSEN: I was.
SIEGEL: What did you feel when this wave of disappointment and people, you know, they had free T-shirts. They're throwing them back on the basketball floor. What did it feel like for you?
Mr. ANDERSEN: Well, as soon as the stunt was over, I realized this did not go as we hoped. Now, it wasn't as bad as has been reported. There were maybe three T-shirts that people threw back onto the court. Our dancers picked those T-shirts up, threw them right back into the audience, and the only other thing that ended up on the court was a rubber ball my 3-year-old threw on the court.
(Soundbite of laughter)
Mr. ANDERSEN: You know, I mean, there was a maximum of three to five T-shirts ended up on the court, and nothing else was thrown.
SIEGEL: Well, Brandt Andersen, owner of the Utah Flash, thank you very much for talking with us about what obviously for you was an awful Monday night. Thanks a lot for being with us.
Mr. ANDERSEN: Thank you.
SIEGEL: And in case you were wondering, the Utah Flash have otherwise been successful this season. So far, the Flash are five and one.
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