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Why Michael Jordan Joined the Wizards in 2001 After 1998 Bulls Retirement

Rob Goldberg@TheRobGoldbergFeatured ColumnistMay 18, 2020

Washington Wizards' Michael Jordan (23) pumps his fist at the end of a game against the New Jersey Nets, Friday, Feb. 21, 2003, in Washington. Jordan scored 43 points in the Wizards' 89-86 win. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
PABLO MARTINEZ MONSIVAIS/Associated Press

Michael Jordan gained his stardom with the Chicago Bulls, but his playing career ended with the Washington Wizards when he returned following a three-year retirement from the NBA.

It was a surprising move at the time and one that has not yet been detailed in The Last Dance documentary.

Jordan's first retirement from the NBA came in 1993 after his father died and he switched to baseball, but he was back on the court about 18 months later. He then won three more championships with the Bulls before retiring a second time in 1998.

His comeback wasn't as successful the second time around. He failed to bring the Wizards to the playoffs in either of his two seasons.

The guard earned two All-Star selections while averaging a combined 21.2 points per game, but it was a stark contrast from his 31.5 points per game during his 13 years in Chicago.

He also underwent an interesting process to get back into the league since he first joined the Wizards' front office and gained a partial ownership share in January 2000.

"I'm going to have my imprints and footprints all over this organization," Jordan said at the time, per Steve Wyche of the Washington Post. "I look forward to turning this thing around. Right now we're an underachieving team."

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Less than two years later, he put himself on the roster as he returned to the NBA as a player in 2001:

"I am returning as a player to the game I love because during the last year and a half, as a member of Washington Wizards' management, I enjoyed working with our players, and sharing my own experiences as a player. I feel there is no better way of teaching young players than to be on the court with them as a fellow player, not just in practice, but in actual NBA games. While nothing can take away from the past, I am firmly focused on the future and the competitive challenge ahead of me."

Jordan added that the loyalty from the fans in Washington "strongly influenced my decision."

Mark Cuban said this week on 105.3 The Fan he tried to get Jordan to join the Dallas Mavericks when he bought the team in 2000.

However, the Wizards were able to land the superstar after owner Ted Leonsis reached out in September 1999.

"I said, 'Tell me what you're interested in.' He said: 'I want to win more championships. I want equity. I want to run the basketball operations,'" Leonsis relayed, per Richard Sandomir of the New York Times.

Jordan played two seasons in Washington before finally retiring for good in 2003 at the age of 40.

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