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Jordan: Will He Suit Up a Third Time? - 2001-09-20


The man many consider the greatest basketball player ever, Michael Jordan, is expected to announce within the next two weeks whether he will make another comeback in the NBA. All indications point to Jordan donning the jersey of the NBA team based in Washington, D.C., the Wizards.

Michael Jordan is currently part owner and president of basketball operations for the Washington Wizards. But basketball experts say Jordan will almost certainly leave his executive job with the Wizards and suit up to play for the club this upcoming season.

The Wizards open their pre-season training camp October 2 in Jordan's home state of North Carolina. The Washington Post newspaper reports Jordan was planning to make his highly anticipated announcement of a comeback September 20, but decided not to hold a news conference because of the recent terrorist attacks in New York and Washington. It's expected Jordan will make his plans known before the Wizards training camp begins.

The 38-year-old basketball great has been practicing often in recent months, playing pick-up games against current NBA players. In mid-July, Jordan commented on the possibilities of a comeback. "I think everybody has tried to point me in one direction or another. But I've been very honest with myself. I'm still evaluating," he said. "I'm looking for the signs; I'm looking for all the things I could do when I was playing. If you asked me today to make a decision, I would not play, because I still have so many question marks about myself physically."

Those "question marks" that Michael Jordan refers to are an assortment of injuries he's suffered on the court while evaluating a comeback, including back spasms, broken ribs and tendonitis in his legs.

But Jordan has always been supremely confident about his abilities, and the injuries have not shaken that confidence. "I look forward to playing, and, hopefully, I can get to that point where I can make that decision," Mr. Jordan says. "I still feel effectively that I can score. I still feel effectively that I can guard, and play defense, and rebound. I think all the various elements of the game of basketball, I can do. How I do that against other competition, and in the intensity of an NBA basketball game, is probably the question, because I haven't had a chance to do that yet."

Michael Jordan was recently interviewed by a group of reporters for 30 minutes outside his restaurant in Chicago. One of the reporters on hand was a writer for Sports Illustrated magazine, Marty Burns. "He clearly knows that there is a lot of controversy about this," Mr. Burns says. "I think he wants to pave the way for this announcement to come out. He wants people to know that he's doing this for the right reasons, for the love of the game and because he misses basketball and really wants to get back on the court."

If he gets back on the court, Jordan will be resuming one of the most successful basketball careers of all time. He retired three years ago, after winning six NBA championships and 10 NBA scoring titles in 13 seasons with the Chicago Bulls. It was actually Jordan's second retirement from the NBA. After winning his third straight NBA title with the Bulls during the 1992-1993 season, Jordan's joy turned to sorrow when his father, James Jordan, was murdered in North Carolina. On October 6, just one day before the start of training camp, he announced his retirement from the NBA and then made a brief swing at a professional baseball career. Jordan quickly found out he could shoot a basketball a lot better than he could hit a baseball, and he was soon back in the NBA.

If Jordan comes back again, he'll be joining one of the NBA's weakest clubs in the Wizards. According to Sports Illustrated magazine writer Marty Burns, Jordan knows his return with the Wizards will be a challenging one. "He's clearly crossed the hurdle in his mind that he can come back, and maybe not contend for a championship right away," he says. "He knows that the Wizards are not maybe a championship-caliber team. He said to us that, maybe making the playoffs is a form of winning, just like winning a championship would be."

Michael Jordan won his last championship in 1998, making a heroic last-second shot as the Bulls beat the Utah Jazz in the NBA Finals. Reports of Jordan's comeback have generated brisk ticket sales in Washington and in other NBA cities. Once again, Marty Burns.

"It's [Jordan's comeback] going to create a lot of interest," Mr. Burns says. "There are a lot of Jordan fans who want to see him play again. I think it might tarnish his image a little bit, in that there is no way he can top that ending, that perfect ending that he had in Utah in 1998. But most people in the long run will remember all his great years in basketball and not how he went out ultimately."

That's Marty Burns, a writer for Sports Illustrated magazine, commenting on the possible basketball comeback of Michael Jordan.