They're off to see the Wizard _ the one wearing No. 23

Thursday, September 27th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ I. Hope Umana got in line at the MCI Center and became a Washington Wizards season ticket holder, and not because of Kwame Brown or Richard Hamilton.

``Did you think I was going to buy tickets to see Brown and Hamilton play? No way,'' Umana said before paying more than $2,000 for two season tickets.

``I just want anything that will get me into the building,'' Umana said.

Not many people have said that about the Wizards recently, but now it's true across the country. Michael Jordan's announcement Tuesday that he will end his three-year retirement and join the Wizards has made Washington's team a must-see attraction.

``When the news broke, the business probably tripled and today is our best sales day,'' said Mike Golub, senior vice president of business operations for the Memphis Grizzlies, who play host to the Wizards on Dec. 11. ``This will be a slam-dunk sellout.''

Phones rang off the hook from Seattle to Boston. Interest in Chicago peaked as fans wondered what it will be like to see the man who won six championship rings with the Bulls play in a uniform that isn't red and black.

At the MCI Center, Jordan's new home court, the Wizards sold 1,000 new season ticket packages in about 24 hours after Jordan's announcement. That boosts the number of total season ticket plans sold to 13,000, surpassing the previous high of 12,000 set in 1997, when the arena opened.

``Jordan is going to do the team good, and he's going to do the city good,'' said Mike Sami, who paid $3,700 for two tickets for all 41 home games.

Ten- and 20-game ticket plans for the Wizards were already sold out.

In addition, the Wizards are setting aside 1,500 seats per game to be sold individually for those who can't afford season tickets. Those go on sale Monday.

Individual game tickets for the Wizards' two visits to Boston have already sold out, even though the Celtics limited the number of tickets people could buy to four apiece.

In Chicago, fans marked Jan. 19 and March 1 on their calendars _ Wizards vs. the Bulls.

``In the market where he played and won six championships, they really want to see him,'' team spokeswoman Sebrina Brewster said.

Brewster said individual game tickets don't go on sale until Oct. 6, and when they do there will be only about 1,000 available.

Even people like Scott Baird, a hockey fan who until now had little interest in basketball, pondered whether to buy Wizards tickets. Baird was waiting in line at MCI Center to buy tickets for the Washington Capitals.

``Yeah, I'd see him play. Michael is Michael, he's such a special athlete,'' Baird said. ``He can do whatever he wants.''