I was reading this book about Jordan by the Washington Post sportswriter Michael Leahy "Michale Jordan's Last Comeback." Somehow I got in this mood where I got interested in Jordan and his career's trajectory.
Leahy concentrates on his last two seasons with the Washington Wizards. Leahy spent a lot of time with Michael in these two years, with the verdict that Jordan made a mistake in coming back .
Unquestionably he made a serious tactical mistake in not considering that by coming back as a player Owner Abe Pollin would now be able to dispatch him as Director of Basketball Operations.
Jordan did even while reaching 40 in his last season in 2002-2003 manage to average over 20 points per game and was the first player to score over 40 points after his 40th birthday. But Leahy's verdict is that he made a mistake as he did not get to leave the game with any dignity.
Jordan is an interesting case because he had initially pulled a Tiki Barber and retired at 30 after the Bulls won their third successive title. What led him to quit seemed to be a number of things. There was the murder of his father who he was so close to.
Also he says that his father always wanted him to play baseball. Still he insisted that he didn't leave to play baseball. He also was frustrated by all the Bulls players that came in and felt that they were the real reason for the team's dominance-after all Michael had never won before had he?
This all kind of suggests to me how hard it is to have an encore, how to repeat. as champion. In pro sports there is a winner every year. Arguably as even a busted clock is right twice a day it's possible for a team to simply "get lucky." The proof is how they do afterwards you might argue-this is how we sports fans think anyway.
As a Giants fan of course I'm on cloud 9 about the G-men. Still can they repeat? Already I'm feeling like I need them to repeat or at least be pretty darn good as all the prognosticators seem to think that the Patriots are next year's favorite-how many times does Eli have to beat Brady until it's not just "luck?" And the Giants with their 4th Superbowl admittedly fell off pretty sharply after their previous 3.
I think a large part of why Jordan left in 93-94 was he had lost is edge-by lose his edge I mean motivation. He was a very rich man, he had done everything a player could hope to do-scoring records, MVPs, championships. I mean if an NBA player coming into the league was told by an astrologer that he would lead the league in scoring or close to it every year, that he would be considered the best player on the planet, and win 3 straight titles before it's over would this player take this-or would he say let's see behind door number 2? We're imagining if this astrologist is sort of like a genie who can change your future if you ask. How many would ask for a change with the guarantee for all MJ had accomplished till he was 30?
So he had nothing left to prove, he was kind of sick of other players-good players for sure, but let's be honest, good role players-tyring to deny his importance to the team, his father/s murder had rocked him and he was kind of bored. At the press conference when he announced his retirement he had said he had lost the will to play basketball.
Add to that the idea that playing baseball was the wish of his deceased father and you have the rationale. You could chide him for losing his desire-but after all he had accomplished who could be in a position to do that? Ultimately of course, he had to come back. He had said when he left the Bulls could prove they could win without him.
They couldn't. To be sure, they did pretty well, going 55-27 before losing a hard fought semifinal series to my Knicks-the only time we were able to beat them was when MJ was out. Never got a chance to beat him head on.
In 1994-95 they slipped and might have missed the playoffs had Jordan not come back. They didn't make it this year but Jordan was back in top form the next year and they won the first of 3 straight. In that first year they had 72 wins, an NBA record.
So while Jordan may have left early, even with those lost 2 years he had 6 NBA titles, with 2 three-peats. It goes to show what's so hard about winning. It makes it much harder to win again. You can win as a fluke once. To consistently win means you have to beat your worst enemy-that's always you. Jordan had succumbed to himself when he retired at 30 in 1993.
But he made it back. While he had retired too early the first time, the irony of Leahy's book is that the book's claim is that while Jordan may have left too early the first time, he stayed too late the last.
I was never a Jordan fan myself. Although it's true a lot of people held Jordan's greatness-and his conceit about his greatness-against him and I often claimed I did back then, the truth is that what I at least hated about MJ was that he wasn't a Knick. If he had came back to the Knicks in 95 rather than back to the Bulls I would have felt differently.
Now, however, the Knicks have a player who scored more in his first five NBA starts than any player since the NBA-ABA merger in Jeremy Lin and he plays MJ's old position. Yes more than any player ever, even than the great MJ.