WASHINGTON — Mike Sami is a die-hard Washington Redskins fan who hasn’t missed a home game in six years. But Wednesday,Sami came to the MCI Center in search of Washington Wizards tickets,forsaking his beloved ‘Skins for Michael Jordan.
Sami,from Springfield,Va.,said he is not even a basketball fan,but Jordan’s return this season,which became official Tuesday,has changed that.
“Personally,I am pretty excited about the Wizards and the (NHL) Capitals with (Jaromir) Jagr,compared to the Redskins now,” he said.
Sami’s enthusiasm is typical of the fervor of sports fans in the nation’s capital and throughout the country Wednesday,as Wizards ticket and team gear sales are jumping even higher than his Airness once did.
That excitement is readily apparent down the hall from the MCI Center’s ticket sales office at Modell’s Sporting Goods store where there is already a 100-person waiting list for Jordan’s No. 23 Wizards jersey,according to store manager Joe Linn.
Linn predicts the jerseys will arrive next week and will sell for $120-130.
Linn said traffic through the store Wednesday was double that of an average Wednesday morning and that people are calling from throughout the country,even Chicago,to reserve their gear.
The same seems true at Sports Zone in the Marlow Heights Shopping Center in suburban Maryland,where assistant manager Kevin Nicks said he has seen considerably more interest in Wizards gear than normal. Nicks said he wasn’t surprised: “It’s Michael Jordan,of course everyone wants to be wearing that one,” he said.
Jordan’s return will pay dividends for not only his store,but for the whole city,according to Linn.
“This is really going to put the MCI Center and (the Wizards) on the map,and D.C. really,with Jordan and Jagr,” Linn said. “It’s going to be a great year,a year like we have never seen down here.”
Jordan’s return certainly seemed to put the MCI Center on the map for the O’Neal family. Larry and Helen O’Neal,of Houston,Texas,seemed only mildly interested in the Wizards,but they stopped by the arena Wednesday just to have their picture taken at the box office where Jordan tickets are sold.
Tanya O’Neal,meanwhile,inquired about season tickets,before deciding the price was too steep. Nonetheless,Tanya said she might attend a few individual games anyway.
The Wizards are only selling season tickets and,as of noon Wednesday,had about 4,000 left,according to Susan O’Malley,president of Washington Sports and Entertainment,the parent company of the Wizards.
The team plans to reserve at least 1,500 tickets for each home game for non-season ticket holders. Tickets to individual games will go on sale at Monday,Oct. 1 at 10 a.m. (EST). O’Malley expects those tickets will sell out in a hurry.
“In the last 10 hours we have been open since Michael made his announcement,we have had 2,085 phone calls. There seems to be an interest,” O’Malley quipped.
She predicts every game Jordan plays this season will be a sellout.
“Every night Michael plays there will be excitement,” she said,”Because you know,there’s always going to be a matchup. There’s always going to be Allen Iverson,Vince Carter – how is he going to be against Kobe Bryant?”
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