Michael Jordan left the court on June 14, 1998, against Utah in the NBA Final, with a shot against Bryon Russell since considered the greatest moment in the history of the playoffs. A dream end to his career, his hand outstretched towards the sky.
A few months later, Jordan returned to the NBA. Not as a player, but as a leader in Washington. The idea of a comeback, although 99.99% ruled out on the day of his retirement in 1999, is starting to gain ground.
Even retired and now president of a franchise, Jordan continues to train. As usual, in the summer, he invites several NBA players to come with him to Chicago. The Wizards then hired coach Doug Collins, Jordan’s former coach in the late 80s. This was probably the trigger for the comeback for the six-time NBA champion.
On September 25, 2001, “His Airness” organized a press conference: he is coming back! His motivations are simple, he wants to play for the love of the game, and as a result, he decides to donate his salary to the families of the victims of the September 11 attacks. “ It was like an itch, and I didn’t want it to itch for the rest of my life » he explains. “ I’m not afraid of challenges and that’s why I said 99.99% in 1999. You never know. »
The number 23 will no longer be on the red jersey of the Bulls, but on the blue of the Wizards, a struggling team, which has just drafted 19-year-old high school student Kwame Brown in first place.
He wants to challenge the new generation
A new generation of players took power after the 1998-1999 season marked by a lockout. Vince Carter, Tracy McGrady, Allen Iverson, Kobe Bryant and others like Shaquille O’Neal, Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett have become the standard bearers of the post-Jordan NBA. But he, as an absolute competitor, wants to test himself against the young guns of the 2000s.
Michael Jordan’s first steps in his new colors begin in the most famous venue in the world: Madison Square Garden, on October 30. And it’s the start of a two-season adventure that will allow an entire generation to see and discover the best basketball player of all time.
Despite incredible performances for a player of his age, he failed, failing to get the Wizards into the playoffs, and today, he recognizes that it was a failure.
“This is one of the most disappointing things” he admitted in 2015. “Initially, I wanted to make it a winning franchise, we had different objectives. We achieved some, and there were others that I was not able to achieve. But I wouldn’t change anything that happened to me because it’s a learning process, and it was a rewarding experience. Although I didn’t achieve all of my goals in Washington, I learned a lot. There are positives and negatives, and it has helped me become a better owner and a better person. »