His Airness has left the building. Not that he ever entered it in the first place.
More than 7,500 fans came to the NBA D-League game, hoping to see Jordan play one-on-one against former Utah Jazz guard Bryon Russell -- who he humiliated for a poster shot his last NBA finals -- at halftime. But when an imposter stepped onto the court, the crowd booed furiously. In an attempt to subdue the angry crowd, cheerleaders threw free t-shirts into the stands, but irritated fans threw them right back.
The well-scripted hoax began back in September, when—in his induction speech—Jordan called Russell out on some of the latter's trash talk. Hoping to capitalize on the rivalry, Flash owner Brandt Andersen threw down the gauntlet, encouraging a one-on-one competition and offering $100,000 to a charity of the winner's choice.
Jordan never responded to the challenge, but that didn't stop Andersen from promoting it.
In fact, Andersen went so far as to hire a Jordan-lookalike to walk around the local businesses of Orem, Utah, creating buzz that the basketball legend was actually in town. A YouTube video of the Jordan imposter eating at a local restaurant made its rounds online.
Andersen seemed to buy into his own hoax, saying "We did think there was a chance he might be here," reports the Salt Lake Tribune.
Russell knew about the scam and played into it, building up the crowd's excitement at the fateful game. But when the 7,500 people found out they had been duped, they stormed out of the stadium.
"This was done in fun," Andersen explained in the Utah Flash Owner's Blog. "If you did not see it as fun or you feel we went over the top, I am sorry."
As part of his apology, Andersen is offering free tickets to a future Flash game to fans who attended the home opener.
"If you were offended by the stunt I sincerely apologize," he continued. "Good or bad, I hope it got you talking. I hope you were entertained."
Oh, we are most certainly talking, Mr. Andersen. But the words we're using can't be printed here.
Matt Bartosik is a Chicago native and a social media sovereign.