It still looks weird. Part of it is certainly because he was older, more out of shape than we were used to. Part of it is probably because everyone looked at least a little bit goofy in those Washington uniforms. But man, Michael Jordan playing for the Wizards--a past-his-prime player for a middling, lottery-bound team--it's still hard to believe your eyes that it ever actually happened. Luckily the NBA's fever dream of MJ being trapped in basketball purgatory lasted just two seasons, and on April 16th, 2003, it ended for good--against the Philadelphia 76ers in the First Union Center.
As far as graceful exits go, it wasn't exactly hitting the finals game-winner against Bryon Russell. MJ had a minorly rough go of it, shooting just 6 of 15 for 15 points, although he also added four rebounds and assists. Rather, the evening belonged to the guy who had arguably replaced him as the face of the NBA--Allen Iverson, who had 35 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists and 2 steals, with only a single turnover, leading the Sixers to a 20-point victory. With their 48-34 record, the Sixers were headed to their fifth-straight post-season, while #23 #45 was headed to the greens early again. "I'm not embarrassed,'' said Jordan, "but it's just not ...
I've had better feelings in terms of playing a competitive game.''
Still, the evening was not without its sentimentality. The crowd at the First Union Center treated Jordan well, giving him numerous standing ovations, and chanting or him to come back in the game as he rode the bench during the garbage time of the fourth quarter. Jordan didn't want to go back into the pre-determined contest, but with some plodding from coach (and ex-Sixer) Doug Collins, he did end up coming back, taking a foul and sinking a pair of free throws to make the last of his 32,292 points scored in the NBA--the third-highest tally in basketball history.
"I never, never took the game for granted," said Jordan. "I was very true to
the game, and the game was very true to me. It was just that