Talk of Another Jordan Comeback Tantalizes Fans

Hal Sundt, Staff Writer

We know about his NCAA title-winning shot against Georgetown, that magical NBA draft night and the Magic/Isiah freeze-out conspiracy at the 1985 All-Star game. We still watch footage of the 63 points at the Boston Garden and remember the pain of losing to the Bad Boys from Detroit again and again and again.

While he was chasing an incredibly elusive championship, Gatorade, Nike and McDonalds recognized his individual achievements: scoring titles, MVP’s and even a Defensive Player of the Year award. We bought the shoes, ate the meat and drank the drink.

We helped rip the torch from Magic’s hands in the ’91 Finals after the forever-famous “fake-dunk-layup.” Our mouths watered during the evisceration of the Portland Trailblazers the following year, the six three-pointers in one half and “The Shrug.” The rest of the world watched in awe during the ’92 Olympics as the “Dream Team” officially made the game of basketball a global sport and created the likes of Pau Gasol, Dirk Nowitzki and Manu Ginobili today.

We cried and asked “why?!” when baseball took precedence over basketball. Hakeem Olajuwon, David Robinson, Shaquille O’Neal and Penny Hardaway tried to fill the void that had been left, and they failed. We rejoiced at the return and questioned the number 45. We proclaimed, “He’s still got it!” after the double-nickel at Madison Square Garden, only to have our faith turn to doubt after Nick Anderson stole the ball in the playoffs.

A record 72 wins, a third MVP award and another championship proved the Michael Jordan’s doubters wrong. Two more championships, another MVP award, the “Flu Game” and that final shot over Byron Russell capped off the second three-peat and solidified his status as the “Greatest of All Time.”

Then Jerry Krause broke up the Bulls, the NBA went on strike and a second retirement ensued.

Sitting helplessly by in the front office of the Washington Wizards, smoking cigars and packing on pounds, the shoe sales started to decline and we started to forget. There was only one way to recapture the fleeting feelings of fair-weather fans. The second comeback sparked controversy, as we questioned the motives and asked, “Why did you leave in the first place?” We begged that a picture-perfect career would not be tarnished. Not like this.

Two more All-Star appearances and no playoff games later we knew that this latest retirement would be the last. Except we were teased again. At the Hall of Fame induction ceremony, we heard those fateful words: “One day you may look up and see me playing a game at 50. Don’t laugh. Never say never.”

On Feb. 10, after he played in just one Charlotte Bobcats practice, we started talking again. Could he play at age 48, or would he follow through with his enshrinement speech threat and come back at age 50?

As ridiculous as it seems, Jordan’s competitive reputation is such that even the most absurd of possibilities has to be taken seriously. The sight of him with a basketball in hands is enough to bring some of the game’s seminal moments flooding back. Even the slightest chance that basketball’s greatest performer could grace us with his presence again makes every fan stand at attention.Ha