Kwame the kid
Jordan zeroed in on Brown after seeing him play
Updated: Thursday June 28, 2001 8:04 AM
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Two looks was all it took.
The first time he watched 6-foot-11 high school center Kwame Brown on the court, Michael Jordan was rather impressed. The kid's second workout was even better, and at that point Jordan knew he had his man.
Jordan, the Washington Wizards president of basketball operations, made history Wednesday by making Brown the first high school player to be selected with the top pick in the NBA Draft.
Picking a 19-year-old player with the first selection was a gamble Jordan was willing to take.
"We brought him in for a second workout, and we were convinced then," Jordan said. "Once I got a chance to talk with the kid the second time around, I felt like I had to stick my neck out and take this risk."
The Wizards, a franchise with a long history of futility, have turned to Jordan to turn things around. At this point, his plan is to build the team into a winner without having to step on the court himself.
"I did this draft as if I [would be] nowhere around. I was doing my job of evaluating the talent and putting together the best basketball team," said Jordan, 38, who is mulling a possible comeback. "If I decide to play, it's only going to add to what has happened."
Brown is the youngest player ever taken with the first overall pick. He scored 1,539 points for Glynn Academy in Brunswick, Ga., averaging 20.1 points and 13.3 rebounds as a senior.
He intended to take a scholarship offer from the University of Florida before opting for the NBA draft. That paved the way for the Wizards, who last had the top pick in their first season of operation (1961, Walt Bellamy).
Washington has made the playoffs only once in the last 12 seasons and hasn't won a playoff game since 1988. Jordan hopes Brown can help change all that.
"We feel like we've gotten a quality kid. His potential is unbelievable," Jordan said.
The problem with a high school player, of course, is there's no telling how quick he will mature or how he will fare against the best in the business without having played college ball.
"We don't know what this kid is capable of doing. That's the beauty of why we drafted him," Jordan said. "We don't know how fast he can progress. We hope that in a couple of years he will be a star. But we really don't know when we can expect seeing dividends from him."
Wizards owner Abe Pollin, like Jordan, expects Brown to excel sooner than later.
"I've seen this kid play, and he's amazing," Pollin said. "He's big, strong and runs like a deer. He's a great pick and I'm very happy."
Pollin, a member of the old guard of NBA owners, has always been opposed to the idea of drafting high school players.
"But since the league says we can, I wanted to pick the best player. And he's the best player in the draft," Pollin said.
The Wizards were convinced that Brown was their man, but were interested in hearing any and all trade offers. None were good enough to persuade Jordan to deal away a young man who led his high school team to 52 wins in 62 games over the last two years.
But Brown's numbers weren't as good an argument as his workouts under Jordan's watchful eyes. Jordan spent much of the day Wednesday sitting by the phone and waiting for someone to entice him to give away the pick.
"I went through the day pretty much set on taking him, barring a trade for Tracy McGrady and Grant Hill," Jordan said.
The Wizards didn't have a second pick, and no matter how good Brown turns out to be, he won't turn around the franchise by himself.
"Our work is not done," Jordan said. "A big piece has been added, but we still feel like we have a lot of room for improvement for this team."