MORRISSEY: Here’s hoping Michael Jordan won’t get the urge to play again
BY RICK MORRISSEY email@example.com February 12, 2013 10:24AM
Here we were, finally free of those unfortunate memories of a 40-year-old Michael Jordan playing for the Washington Wizards. That was a very human Jordan, a Jordan forced to acknowledge the existence of gravity. But, as I said, we had forgotten that.
Until Friday. That’s when the Lakers’ Antawn Jamison decided to think out loud about what Jordan might be able to do as a 50-year-old NBA player. To be fair, it was Jordan who had first brought up the idea during his Hall of Fame induction speech in 2009. Don’t laugh, he had told the audience.
We laughed, but it was a nervous kind of laugh. He wouldn’t put himself and us through that again. Ha, ha. Ho, ho. Would he?
Then Jamison opened his mouth Friday before his team played the Charlotte Bobcats, who are owned by Jordan.
“I wouldn’t doubt that in the right situation, with a LeBron [James] on his team or with a Kobe [Bryant] on this team, he could get you about 10 or 11 points, come in and play 15-20 minutes,” Jamison said. “I wouldn’t doubt that at all, especially if he was in shape and injuries were prevented.’’
I worry that the embers always smoldering inside Jordan are now, as we speak, doing a fair imitation of a brush fire sprinting toward a forest. Thanks, Antawn.
Jordan turns 50 on Sunday, and that, in itself, is enough to make many of us feel old. We certainly don’t need to see him old.
I went to the Berto Center on Sunday seeking the one person who could reassure me, who could tell me that Jordan can’t play anymore, who could paint a picture of a man better suited for a high-stakes game of H-O-R-S-E than an NBA game.
That one person was of no help.
“He can still score,’’ said Bulls center Nazr Mohammed, who played for the Bobcats from 2007 to ’11. “He can create space to get his shot off. He has a swagger about him that he wills the ball in. I mean he wills that thing in. He can still do a lot. He just can’t jump as high, but he doesn’t need to.’’
Surely, this is nostalgia talking. The last time I saw Jordan play, in 2003, it looked like somebody had aired his tires. He couldn’t jump, but he averaged 21.2 points in two seasons with the Wizards. It was hard to watch after seeing him at his best with the Bulls.
I told this to Mohammed, who would have none of it.
“He practiced with us a couple times, and we were still trying to get him the ball,’’ he said. “He made shots. Of course, it’s hard to get in NBA shape, but if he got himself in NBA shape, I could see that happening.
“Half of this game is confidence and will and hard work. He’s definitely a guy who embodies that, especially with the skill level. You just don’t lose the skill level. There are a lot of guys who can play at this level as far as skills, but do they have the mental [strength] for it? Can they come back after a bad game?
“It’s how you come back. He’s the ultimate guy at coming back. He came back every season better, smarter, added a piece to his game, and even at 50, he’s more skilled than a lot of guys in their 20s.’’
Mohammed could see my discomfort. I looked like someone who had just eaten a bad burrito. He talked about the way Jordan still knew positioning when he came back in 2001.
Many of us would prefer to remember a man who was so talented that he could tell a defender what he was going to do to him and then do it. It was cruel, premeditated embarrassment.
With trepidation, I asked Mohammed if he thought Jordan would try a comeback.
“No, I don’t think he would,’’ Mohammed said. “I think he’s committed to making the Bobcats a great organization and a great team. But he has a love for the game, and as long as he has that love, he’s always going to get on the court with the guys and play a little bit. But I don’t think he’s coming back.’’
But then that Hall of Fame speech popped into my head again.
“Never say never,’’ Jordan said in 2009.
Say it, Michael. Please.