- The Washington Times - Monday, April 23, 2001

Not to go against 99.9 percent of America, but Michael Jordan pushed off against Bryon Russell before he hit the series-winning shot in Game 6 of the 1998 NBA Finals.

There should have been a Game 7 between the Bulls and Jazz in 1998. There should have been an outcry. There should have been an asterisk next to the Zen team's last championship.

But no, that did not fit the story line embraced by 99.9 percent of the scribblers and talking heads. People wanted Jordan to go out on top, in storybook fashion. They wanted to bask in his reflected glory, and so the push off was cast aside, conveniently forgotten, no matter how many times the shot was replayed.

You undoubtedly have seen the push off yourself.

Jordan pushed Russell to free up shooting space for himself. In case you didn't know it, this is against the rules. This is not a hard call to make, at least it isn't 99.9 percent of the time, and if it had been anyone but Jordan, the referees would have called it, and NBC's announcers would have weighed in with their support, and that would have been that.

This is how it became with Jordan. He became bigger than the game, and 99.9 percent of those associated with the game prayed at his altar, starting with the referees, the league, opponents, the media and Ahmad Rashad, especially Rashad.

They all said the same thing, which was: Oh, Michael.

Men usually squeal like girls around Jordan. Strike that last comment. That's not fair to girls. Men, especially Rashad, usually wag their tails around Jordan and ask to be patted on their heads.

Jordan throws 99.9 percent of his bones to Rashad, as well he should, because no one whimpers harder for those bones than Rashad.

Jordan is 99.9 percent certain he won't play again, except when he is around Rashad, and then he is 99.9 percent he will play again, but only if Charles Barkley slims down to 260 pounds and Courtney Alexander and Richard Hamilton are willing to share the ball with him.

Then Jordan is 19.9 percent against playing again. Or is that 29.9 percent? Who knows? You do the math. You read the tea leaves.

This is Jordan's world. He only allows you to live in it, and you should be gracious, ever thankful.

Maybe he is 49.9 percent against playing again at the moment, and if he is at 49.9 percent, that is subject to change as he works himself back into condition. He could be 5.9 percent against playing again by next week, and either way, 5.9 percent vs. 49.9 percent, Doug Collins would love to have him back, because that is the kind of guy Collins is, and he wouldn't be in Tony Cheng's neighborhood, not even for 99.9 seconds, if he thought Jordan was not in it to turn the franchise around.

That could be a problem, too.

Jordan has been granted all these special powers, largely because he was the best there was in the NBA, and other than his inability to hit a curve ball, find the right coach, inspire Rod Strickland and end world hunger, he has been a success at everything he ever has attempted.

Jordan would have known how to handle the Chinese, if anyone ever had bother to ask, because he can play the semantics game with the best, or at least with 99.9 percent of the best.

Jordan loves a "challenge," it seems, and he will be 38 at the start of next season, which would make him older than 99.9 percent of the rest of the players, depending on the career paths of Sam Perkins and John Stockton.

By the way, Jordan is not obligated to play with the Wizards, which raises another issue. It could be that he is 99.9 percent against playing with the Wizards, considering the circumstances of his handiwork, and only .1 percent against playing if the right situation surfaces. Or his comeback could be 50-50, depending on Rashad, the Chinese, excluding Wang Zhizhi, and Barkley's diet.

Jordan also could feel differently by the end of the summer, anywhere from 0 to 100 percent, including tenths of a percent. To his credit, he has not resorted to hundredths of a percent yet, instead dispensing 99.9 percent approximately 99.9 times.

Otherwise, if Jordan does return, he owes the Jazz a Game 7.

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