Bv DAVID BLUMENFELD
It’s the stuff basketball dreams are made of.
It’s the 1998 NBA Finals, in the dying moments of Game six. You’re a win away from hoisting your sixth league title in eight years, but your team’s down by a point. A loss forces an unpredictable seventh game. You win, and you leave the court a champion.
The game looks lost when suddenly, with hardly any time left, you steal the ball from your opponent, jog down the court, stop, look square to the basket, jump, and shoot. Swish.
Nothing but net, and two points. Time runs out. You claim victory and celebrate, taking your crowning glory and retire after playing 14 dynamic seasons. You’re forever remembered for your greatness and the fairy-tale ending to your career.
Who in their right mind would ruin that dream? The man who made that dream a reality, that’s who.
None other than “His Airness” himself, Michael Jordan.
After almost three years of retirement, Jordan, now 38, confirmed Sept. 25 that he’s returning to the NBA “for the love of the game.”
Only this time Jordan will don a Washington Wizards uniform instead of the red Chicago Bulls jersey he made so popular. However, he will continue to wear his trademark number 23.
“I know there are a lot of naysayers out there,” Jordan said back on Sept. 11 when rumours were still swirling about a possible return.
You bet there are, and I’m one of them. But make no mistake, I am a huge Jordan fan. He’s a legend to the game of basketball. At bis peak, no one could defend against his patented fade-away jumpshot. For the most part, he was unstoppable on the court and made moves that left you looking in awe.
Literally, he’s done it all. Sure, it’ll be nice to see him in action again, but why on earth would he come back to try writing another chapter in a career that had a perfect ending?
In April, Jordan said he was coining back for “the challenge.” Well, a challenge it will be. The Wizards were a terrible 19-63 last season. Doesn’t he know what a good exit is? Apparently not. Jordan hitting that final shot in 1998 was practically divine. And leaving the NBA like that after dominating the game for most, if not all, of the 1990s was everything any basketball player could want.
The man started as a rookie and left the game as a demigod. From a fan’s perspective, when MJ left the game in ’98 it was the best way to go out — as a champion.
It was just like Ray Bourque, who retired after winning the Stanley Cup last season for the first time in his 20-year career. The biggest challenge of any sport is becoming a champion. After that, there shouldn’t be too much left.
Still, Jordan says he’s “especially excited about the Washington Wizards” and that he’s “convinced we have the foundation on which to build a playoff-contention team.”
Really, what’s the point?
Jordan started building a contender with the Bulls from the moment he joined the club in 1984. The team didn’t win their first championship until 1991. I doubt they were playing chess the whole time.
most players, but not for Jordan. He wants to try again.
He left the game as an image of perfection. No doubt he’ll still be able to score and defend. His clutch shots will still be there and that famous tongue will stick out when he dunks.
But his health, his age and what he can do with the cast of players, on a team that hasn’t won a playoff game in 13 seasons, is anybody’s guess.
Overall, the deck’s stacked against him. Everyone in sports has their prime and a time when they shine. If you’re lucky, maybe you get to take home a championship or two. Jordan took home six and ended his old career the best way an athlete could — a winner.
“I’m not coming back for money, I’m not coming back for the glory,” Jordan said. “I think I left the game with that.”
Not anymore, Mike.