- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 26, 2001

He's back. Again.
Michael Jordan, probably the world's most popular athlete, has ended his three-year retirement and will return to professional basketball at age 38 to play for the Washington Wizards.
"I am returning as a player to the game I love," Jordan said yesterday in a statement.
Jordan, who signed a two-year contract, will donate his entire salary for the upcoming season $1.3 million to relief efforts for the victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center.
Jordan, the Wizards' president of basketball operations, originally intended to announce his decision at a news conference last week. However, that event was canceled following the attacks, and Jordan said he will not comment publicly on his return until the Wizards' media day Monday at MCI Center.
"This is certainly an extremely important moment in the history of our franchise," said Wizards majority owner Abe Pollin. "However, our excitement is muted by the world events that surround us."
Jordan's return should provide an immediate competitive and economic boost for the Wizards, a hard-luck franchise that has enjoyed scant success over the past two decades.
During a 13-year National Basketball Association career that began in 1984, Jordan led the Chicago Bulls to six league championships while winning five league Most Valuable Player awards.
A 6-foot-6 shooting guard renowned for his acrobatic flair and unmatched competitive drive, Jordan averaged 31.5 points per game for his career, the highest mark in league history, and collected an NBA-record 10 scoring titles.
Jordan's 29,277 career points rank fourth all time, and his memorable final basket a last-second jump shot against the Utah Jazz lifted the Bulls to their sixth title in 1998.
By contrast, the Wizards have reached the playoffs just once in the past 14 years, posting a 19-63 record last season. Doug Collins, hired by Jordan in the spring, is the team's fifth coach in four years.
"It's very exciting," said Collins, who coached Jordan for three seasons in Chicago. "I've never been around [another] guy like him. He loves competition and he loves to play."
Jordan also remains perhaps the most recognizable figure in sports, an advertising icon who helped lift both the NBA and shoe and apparel company Nike to unprecedented success. Jordan earned a reported $40 million in endorsements last year, and his total economic impact his effect on things such as NBA merchandise and ticket sales, broadcast rights revenues, the value of his endorsement to companies was once estimated at $10 billion.
The news generated instant sales for Wizards tickets and jerseys, which sell for as much as $140. The Wizards sold at least several hundred season tickets in the first few hours following Jordan's announcement, and ticket sales were expected to continue past midnight. Prior to yesterday, interest in Jordan had led a growth of the season ticket base from 10,000 to 12,000.
"It's just so hard to put a number on it, the calls are coming in so fast," said Wizards spokesman Matt Williams. "It's been absolutely crazy."
By joining the Wizards, Jordan will return from basketball retirement for the second time. After leaving the game in 1993 to play minor league baseball, he returned in the spring of 1995, announcing his intentions with a fax that simply stated, "I'm back."
Jordan led Chicago to three straight league titles before again retiring in 1998. He became the Wizards' president of basketball operations and a part-owner of the franchise in January 2000.
As an executive, Jordan scuttled the Wizards' aging, high-priced roster last season, jettisoning veterans Juwan Howard, Mitch Richmond and Rod Strickland before selecting 19-year-old high school phenom Kwame Brown with the top pick in this summer's NBA draft.
Jordan joins a Wizards team dominated by youngsters such as Richard Hamilton, Courtney Alexander and Jahidi White none of whom were in the NBA during Jordan's final year with Chicago.
"As a member of Wizards management, I enjoyed working with our players and sharing my own experiences as a player," Jordan said. "I feel there is no better way of teaching young players than to be on the court with them as a fellow player."
Because league rules prohibit players from owning pieces of any team, Jordan has sold his 6 percent stake in the team back to Lincoln Holdings, the Ted Leonsis-led ownership group of which Jordan was a member. The sale does not include any provision for Jordan to regain those shares.
Jordan also will resign from his front-office position to avoid the appearance of conflict of interest.
Eric Fisher contributed to this report.

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