WASHINGTON -- A beaming Michael Jordan welcomed Kwame Brown to the Washington Wizards on Thursday, presenting the first high-school No. 1 NBA draftee with a new jersey and encouraging words.
"This is a great beginning for this franchise and it starts with him," said Jordan, the Wizards' president of basketball operations. "I'm not putting any added pressure on him, but all I ask him to be is be himself."
Brown is a 6-foot-11, 240-pound center from Glynn Academy in Brunswick, Ga. He is 19, the youngest player ever taken with the first overall pick.
At a news conference at MCI Center, Jordan presented Brown with his jersey - No. 5 - the number worn by since-departed Juwan Howard.
There was a touch of irony in the moment, because Howard's re-signing in 1996, along with the trade at the time for forward-center Chris Webber, was trumpeted at the time as the new beginning the team needed to get back to playoff-caliber basketball.
Howard was traded to the Dallas Mavericks in the midst of the Wizards' poor 2000-2001 season, and Webber had been moved well before that.
"I didn't know this number was going to work," Jordan deadpanned, as TV crews recorded the moment.
Brown sees Jordan as a teacher, but that he isn't overwhelmed by the reputation of his new boss.
"He's Michael Jordan - I mean what can you say," Brown said. "But he breathes the same air I breathe so I'm going to treat him like a person."
When asked if he's dreamed about playing alongside Jordan, Brown said, "My bigger dream is to beat him one day."
Amid the audience's laughter, Jordan quickly replied: "That is a dream."
"If he gets the chance of beating me, then I think he's accomplished a lot," Jordan said. "What our jobs are is to teach him the game of basketball so he can utilize his individuality to become the best, complete basketball player he can be."
There has been rampant speculation that Jordan might return to the hardwood - conjecture he hasn't adamantly discouraged.
Wizards coach Doug Collins called Brown a "multidimensional player" and said, "We don't want to say he's going to play this kind of position. I want him to be a basketball player."
He called Brown "very unselfish" and said he "has the ability as a bigger player to step out on the floor and create shots for his teammates."
Collins said he will work on improving Brown's footwork.
"I want him to be a guy who can use his quickness," he said.
Brown originally planned to attend the University of Florida, but changed his mind when he learned he might be chosen among the top five in the NBA draft.
As a high school senior, he averaged 20 points and 13 rebounds a game and was selected player of the year in the state of Georgia.
It's been 13 years since the Wizards won a playoff game. With the team's 19-63 record last season, it could be a while before the wait ends, and Jordan can afford to take Brown instead of someone with college experience.
"It' not high school any more, it's a business now - but I think I can handle it," Brown said. "I just chased my dream and now I'm here."
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