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Finally: Jordan Speaks on His Return - 2001-10-02

For the first time since the official announcement in a press release last Tuesday, National Basketball Association legend Michael Jordan has spoken about his decision to return to the league as a player for the Washington Wizards. Michael Jordan is arguably the greatest player ever to compete in the National Basketball Association, and certainly had nothing left to prove in his sport. After winning the league scoring title an unprecedented 10 times, leading the Chicago Bulls to six NBA championships during the 1990s, and winning too many awards to mention, he has done it all.

So why would he come back to the NBA? Jordan made it simple. "I'm going to play the game of basketball because I love it," he said.

Michael Jordan says he started seriously contemplating his return to the hardcourt when his friend Mario Lemieux came out of retirement to play for the National Hockey League's Pittsburgh Penguins. Jordan's role as president of basketball operations for the Wizards kept him close to basketball, and he found himself missing the game even more. "It's an itch that still needs to be scratched here," he said. "And I want to make sure this scratch does not bother me for the rest of my life. Get that last scratch in, so that when I walk away from this I do not have to worry about that itch anymore. And my family understands that."

Jordan is aware that many people, from fans, the media and even other players in the league, are skeptical about his return to the NBA. They doubt that he will be able to perform at the level that made him one of the greatest ever. But while he acknowledges that his game may be different, he expects to be successful. "Physically I know that I'm not 25 years old," he said. "But I feel like I can play basketball at the highest level, and that's what I'm aiming to do once I step back on the basketball court."

While other retired NBA stars, such as Charles Barkley and Magic Johnson, have expressed concern that Jordan's return could damage his legacy, Jordan is anxious to prove he can still play with the best. "I'm not afraid to take on a challenge. I'm not afraid to take a step. And if I fall, I'll fall and I'll pick myself up and move on," he said. "If we all can learn something in life it's that don't be afraid to take on something that you believe you are capable of achieving."

Michael Jordan and the Washington Wizards open their season on the road against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden on October 30.