Sept. 25, 2001. It is a date that does not exist within the minds of many Michael Jordan followers.
Saturday marks the 20-year anniversary of MJ popping out of retirement to play for the Wizards. Jordan, 38 years outdated on the time, introduced that he could be stepping down because the crew’s president of basketball operations with the intention to be part of the energetic roster.
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“I’m returning as a participant to the sport I really like as a result of over the past yr and a half, as a member of Washington Wizards’ administration, I loved working with our gamers, and sharing my very own experiences as a participant,” Jordan stated. “I really feel there isn’t a higher manner of instructing younger gamers than to be on the court docket with them as a fellow participant, not simply in follow, however in precise NBA video games. Whereas nothing can take away from the previous, I’m firmly targeted on the longer term and the aggressive problem forward of me.
“I’m particularly excited in regards to the Washington Wizards, and I am satisfied we’ve got the muse on which to construct a playoff-contention crew. The chance to show our younger gamers and assist them elevate their recreation to the next degree, and to thank the followers in Washington for his or her loyalty and assist, strongly influenced my determination.”
Sadly for Jordan, his second comeback did not go almost in addition to the unique, which included a three-peat with the Bulls. The Wizards received 37 video games in 2001-02 and 2002-03, failing to succeed in the playoffs in every of these seasons. “Air Jordan” could not fly fairly as excessive after a three-year layoff, as his age and damage troubles restricted his effectiveness.
ESPN’s documentary collection “The Final Dance” did not function Jordan’s lack of success in Washington, and when GOAT debates emerge occasionally (or, extra realistically, each single day), these seasons will not be even thought of as a part of his case. It is nearly as in the event that they by no means occurred.
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However not solely did Jordan actually play for the Wizards — significantly, there’s footage and every part — he additionally carried out at a reasonably excessive degree when factoring within the context of his scenario and the stage of his profession.
In his first season with the Wizards, Jordan averaged 22.9 factors per recreation, the Tenth-highest mark within the NBA, together with 5.7 rebounds, 5.2 assists and 1.4 steals per recreation. His effectivity was down in comparison with his prime years (41.6 p.c capturing from the sphere), however he was the main scorer on a crew that lacked any form of offensive firepower outdoors of a younger Richard Hamilton. (Chris Whitney and Jahidi White logged probably the most begins in 2001-02. Yeah.)
Regardless of being gentle on assist and needing to empty his knees a number of occasions that season, Jordan nonetheless managed to flash the drive and talent that had made him some of the fascinating athletes in sports activities historical past. He notably poured in 51 factors in opposition to the Hornets on Dec. 29, 2001, changing into the oldest participant to attain 50-plus factors in an NBA recreation. (Jamal Crawford later surpassed Jordan in 2019.)
Jordan performed in all 82 video games in 2002-03, his ultimate NBA season, and averaged 20.0 factors, 6.1 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 1.5 steals. He took fewer pictures than the earlier season, however he hit them at a significantly better charge (44.5 p.c from the sphere). He was second to solely Jerry Stackhouse (21.5 factors per recreation) in scoring and minutes, and Stackhouse was in his prime as a 28-year-old coming off back-to-back All-Star appearances with the Pistons earlier than he was traded to the Wizards. Jordan was a 40-year-old with a physique that was slowly breaking down.
As a member of the Wizards, Jordan had eight video games with 40 or extra factors whereas capturing not less than 50 p.c from the sphere. To place that in perspective, Kawhi Leonard has 5 40-plus level video games in his profession.
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Oh, and concerning Washington’s document? These 37-win seasons look so much higher once you do not forget that the Wizards went 19-63 earlier than Jordan picked up a jersey and 25-57 after he left it within the locker room for good. These squads weren’t going to win rings, however they weren’t basement dwellers, both. It is loopy to suppose the 2001-02 crew was even near the playoffs.
This isn’t to say that the Jordan period was excellent. Kwame Brown did not get pleasure from his time as Jordan’s teammate, to place it mildly. Stackhouse as soon as instructed ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski that he needs that he had by no means performed in Washington. There have been most likely loads of cases wherein Jordan’s unbelievable aggressive streak and self-belief really damage his teammates somewhat than elevated them as he initially supposed. The early 2000s Wizards have been definitely not the Nineteen Nineties Bulls. It might be fallacious to fold these years into “The Final Dance” hagiography.
Nevertheless, presenting Jordan’s temporary run with the Wizards as some form of embarrassing blemish on his resume can be fallacious. If something, the ultimate stretch of his profession ought to function yet one more reminder of simply how nice he was.