MANILA, Philippines – The National Basketball Association (NBA) Development League (D-League) issued an apology for its promotional hoax which made fans believe that Michael Jordan and Bryon Russell would face off during halftime of the Utah Flash vs Dakota Wizards game.
“On behalf of the NBA Development League, I apologize to our fans for a Utah Flash promotion that never should have happened. [...] Brandt Andersen, the Utah Flash owner, has apologized to the Flash fans and has reached out to Michael Jordan to apologize to him as well,” NBA D-League President Dan Reed said in a statement.
“The Flash will refund the price of the tickets and has also offered free tickets to an upcoming Flash game to everyone who was in attendance at Monday night's game,” added Reed.
A total of 7,542 watched the Flash vs Wizards game Monday in Orem, Utah (Tuesday in Manila), according to the D-League website. It was presumed that the thousands of fans wanted to catch a glimpse of NBA legend Jordan and former Utah Jazz forward Russell.
The former Jazz player made his way to the court during halftime, Yahoo Sports reported. A man, who was believed to be Jordan, followed suit with bodyguards. Russell then admitted that the man on court was just a Jordan impersonator.
This revelation disappointed the fans who booed loudly, the Yahoo Sports article continued. Most of the spectators left the McKay Events Center after halftime. The game’s result was 102-92 in favor of the Flash.
The former cagers were touted to play a one-on-one game during halftime after Andersen earlier made an offer to pay $100,000 for the winner’s chosen charity.
Russell challenged Jordan to a clash after the latter said in his Hall of Fame speech that he was “motivated by Russell's trash talk toward him during his first retirement,” an Associated Press (AP) article noted.
“Jordan’s jumper over Russell in Game 6 of the 1998 NBA finals gave the Chicago Bulls a 4-2 series win over Utah. Jazz fans still insist Jordan pushed off Russell,” the AP report added.
‘Done in fun’
Andersen, for his part, said he informed Jordan’s camp of his plans to hold a Jordan-Russell showdown. But Jordan’s camp never got back to him.
The Utah Flash owner also admitted that he hired a Jordan lookalike to go around town in order to generate buzz about the Flash vs Wizards game. A video of the impostor was even posted on YouTube.
“This was done in fun... If you did not see it as fun or you feel we went over the top I am sorry,” Andersen wrote in his blog.
Utah Flash employees reportedly tried to appease the crowd by giving out free T-shirts. Some fans even expressed their disgust by throwing the T-shirts back.
Andersen went on to tell AP: “We're the first ones to say it was not in good taste in the end… It just kind of blew up in our faces. We just didn't execute it well.”
“We wanted to test the strength and effectiveness of viral media by putting him out in Provo with bodyguards, and some hype,” he added. “I'm tremendously sorry for the way it came off. It was never intended to play out the way that it did... We're very sorry for fans that were disappointed or upset.” – With reports from the Associated Press and J.E. Skeets of Yahoo Sports