That was Michael Jordan, in his Mercedes with the Illinois license plate, pulling away from Tony Cheng’s neighborhood for the last time.
That image is etched in D.C. sports lore.
That was the shell of Jordan, beaten and bowed, unable to lift or inspire the Wizards in two ill-fated seasons as a player.
He was no better as the team’s president of basketball operations, running the organization by cell phone, as if it were a fantasy team.
He was forever looking to break par on a golf course without breaking a sweat as the team’s personnel guru, which was costly.
Jordan drafted Kwame Brown. He surrendered Richard Hamilton to obtain Jerry Stackhouse. He put lackeys around himself and imposed a wall intended to protect himself from the intrusion of his celebrity.
He could not just hop on a jet and walk into a gym to inspect the skill set of a precocious teen. The purpose would become secondary to the show that was around him.
Jordan lived part time at the Ritz-Carlton on 22nd Street in Northwest and became a fixture in the VIP rooms of the nearby watering holes.
This, too, was Jordan, not so much mesmerizing but desperate as he endeavored to reclaim the power of his youth and partied like it was 1999.
That was the legend as the District knew him, unfair though it is.
The aging process is never fair.
The pre-D.C. Jordan goes into the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass., this weekend.
That Jordan was the best basketball player of the last generation and redefined how we thought a championship team could be constructed.
No high-scoring shooting guard could lead a team to a championship. That was the skepticism enveloping Jordan as he accumulated scoring titles but could not overcome the elbows and hip checks of Chuck Daly’s Pistons.
That turned out to be a blip in Jordan’s career arc.