|I know I'm going out on a limb, but I'm going to say it. I'm going to talk
about what everyone else seems to front on.
Don't come back, No. 23.
Accept the fact that the game has passed you by and your return can only
damage the legacy and the memories you left us with. Who am I talking about?
None other than Michael Jordan - Air Jordan if you try to defend him.
The world is jiggy with excitement because the greatest basketball player of
all time may return to the hardwood courts of the National Basketball
Association. Washington, D.C. is buzzing like it's already Finals bound
(it's about damn time). And why not? Why wouldn't we get prematurely hype
over a Jordan comeback? After all, he's the man who led the league in
scoring for 10 straight seasons, averaging 31.5 points per game. Selected as
one of the 50 greatest players in NBA history, Jordan ranks 3rd in points and
steals, sports six NBA championship rings, and … oh: don't sleep on the two
But, above all else, Air Jordan is 38 years old. In NBA years, the brother's
reached Geritol status.
Listen though - you don't have to be a fan to appreciate the way Michael went
out …he was on top in his game, and he stays on top while not in it. With the
defense clamping down, Air Jordan illustrated a true champion - again and
again. Faking to his right and coming back to his left, Jordan's jumps struck
fear through the heart of Utah Jazz defenders like a "Buffy" season finale.
When the smoke cleared, Karl Malone wished he would have stayed home and
watched the game on NBC. Classic? Of course. But, at that point you could
sense it was the end of an era.
Michael Jordan set a standard in basketball like no other. Superman is a joke
- Kryptonite couldn't stop the man with Number 23 on his chest. He spawned
the Allen Iversons, the Kobe Bryants and Vince Carters, each of whom, like
myself, grew up watching Michael take it to the best in the game with the
same heart and talent that Iverson and Bryant displayed in the Finals this
Unfortunately, what goes up must come down. Although Michael hit his
pinnacle in the pre-retirement phase, it was obvious his stellar game was in
decline. Think about what it might be like when Jordan returns to a league
dominated by the style, versatility, skill and talent of young 21st century
court warriors running circles around dinosaurs from the 90s? Of course, no
one will doubt he has a better understanding of the game, which can make him
a formidable threat. What about skill, however? What if he can't compete at
the same level he once did? What will we think of our champion then? Will we
still appreciate him? Or will we dog him? Are we, as fans, that
self-absorbed and pressed to get Jordan back on the court? I understand
professional athletes can't turn away from a good challenge - they are
forever consumed by the competitive spirit. In my assessment, being President
and part owner of the Washington Wizards with the task of transforming them
into the ultimate playoff contender, is a bigger challenge than any hard
So why come back? Why taint a great career by returning to a team that may
have a better chance at winning if they played Girl Scouts? Let's get real
now: Mitch Richmond is no Scottie Pippen and Doug Collins may be a great
coach, but he's no Phil Jackson. It took years before the Bulls were able to
build a world-class team around a younger Michael. The Wizards, starting
from virtual scratch, must build a team around Michael and the once
unstoppable Charles Barkley who is also 38. There's just not enough time
before they're both 40. By the way, when was the last time the Wizards had a
winning record? I think they were still called the Bullets. Not even the
tarot-card reading Cleo can predict a bright future for the lackluster
Most Washingtonians hungry for world title probably hate "The Truth" for
coming straight with it. Hey - the truth hurts. Deal with it. The only
impact Michael is going to make without an on-court supporting cast is in the
executive office, the box office and in merchandising. Surely, D.C. can
praise itself as a center of basketball greats. For all my cynicism, I
actually hope I'm wrong because I'd be the first to cheer Jordan, Barkley and
the Wizards on. That success could put Michael on level with Greek gods of
old, but you can't beat what's real. Air Jordan can't fly like he did five
years ago and nostalgia is just what it is - golden memories from a past best
So, Michael, take it from someone who wanted to be "like Mike." Take it from
someone who idolized Jordan to no end, a fan that appreciated every last
breath of Air. For once in your illustrious career - RIDE THE BENCH!
To comment on this or any other column by Drew "The Truth" Alexander, email