- The Washington Times - Friday, November 29, 2002

This is it.
Washington Wizards guard Michael Jordan said yesterday he intends to retire after this season, ending a 15-season career that ranks as perhaps the greatest in basketball history and made him the most famous athlete of his time.
Asked whether he would play beyond this season, Jordan replied, "No. Right now, I'm fulfilling my contract. At the end of this season, I'm not looking at another contract. Right now, I just want to finish this year out and hopefully fulfill my obligations and let this team take its own course after that."
When he contemplated coming out of retirement to play for the Wizards last season, Jordan said there was a "99.9" percent chance he would stay retired.
He didn't. Upon his return last season, Jordan, who will turn 40 in February, said he returned because he had a "love of the game" and "an itch to scratch."
Yesterday, though, Jordan sounded as if both that itch and the wiggle room for a return have disappeared. He also said he planned to resume a role in management of the team.
"There won't be a point, zero point one," Jordan said. "It will be 100 percent, I'm pretty sure. My intent is to go back upstairs."
Before he ended his retirement to play for the Wizards, Jordan was part-owner and president of basketball operations of the franchise. However, NBA rules prevented Jordan from maintaining either his ownership status or title within the organization while playing for the team. It is believed Jordan's partial ownership was placed in a blind trust until he retires.
Jordan has said repeatedly that he intended to honor his two-year, $2million deal with the Wizards. He also has hinted at times that he was considering playing beyond that contract, though it has been widely believed that this would be his last season.
However, Jordan's comments yesterday after a Thanksgiving Day practice marked the first definitive time he has said he will retire.
Jordan is second on the team in scoring at 16.6 points, the first of his career in which he has played as a reserve. Jordan's return to the Wizards this season was predicated on the health of his aching knees, which he recently said "feel good."
In Tuesday's loss to the Pacers, Jordan looked spry, matching his season high in minutes played (34) and posting a season-high 28 points.
"My minutes can go from game to game," Jordan said yesterday. "I'm pretty sure I can go from 37 to 25 on certain nights, depending on how other players play. My minutes are going to be predicated in terms of what's happening with the team.
"I want everybody to understand that. There are no locked-in minutes for me to play. If we're winning, my minutes are down. If we're struggling and I have to step in and pick up the slack, my minutes are going to be up."
The Wizards (6-8) have lost four games in a row.
Before last season, Jordan also said he returned because he wanted to help reshape a team that has made the playoffs just once in the past 14 seasons, hasn't won a playoff series since 1982 and has won more than half of its games only five times in the past 23 seasons.
Jordan appeared in 60 games last season before a knee injury cut his season short, averaging 22.9 points, 5.2 assists and 5.7 rebounds.
Jordan's career scoring average (30.8 points a game) is the highest in league history. He also is one of the game's greatest defensive players; his average of 2.4 steals a game ranks third. He led the Chicago Bulls to six championships in the 1990s, won the NBA's MVP award five times and was named MVP of the playoffs six times.
Jordan's success on the court, his high-flying style and dazzling smile made him perhaps the most famous athlete in the world and one of its richest. Jordan made tens of millions each year in endorsements, pitching everything from sneakers to hamburgers to underwear.
Jordan's minutes unquestionably will drop once leading scorer Jerry Stackhouse relocates his game. Stackhouse, who has been bothered by an aching right knee, has scored just six and nine points in the Wizards' last two losses, making a combined six of 35 shots from the floor.
Coach Doug Collins, feeling that Stackhouse might be placing too much pressure on himself to turn the Wizards in the right direction, sat down with him the other day.
"I want Jerry to relax and just play. I feel like he's been putting a lot of pressure on himself," Collins said. "I had a long talk with him, and I just want him to play. When he's smiling, laughing and attacking that basket and running the floor, I know he's himself. The last couple of days his energy level's been a little bit down, and he's been playing like he's burdened," Collins continued. "I said, 'Put that burden on me. Let me handle that aspect of it, and you just go out and play.'"


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