Jordan Still Fab at 40
Posted Apr 7 2003 12:12PM
Though the Michael Jordan turns the big 4-0, he's proving he can still play
This is it. It's over. It's all downhill from here.
Of course, that's what the cards will say. One can almost imagine the "Over the Hill" banner over a doorway in one of his homes as his family and friends jump out to yell "Surprise!" He'll get joke gifts of Metamucil, Fiber One and maybe a truss or two.
But for a man who has set many milestones and many records Michael Jeffrey Jordan met another milestone on Monday, Feb. 17, 2003 as the greatest player ever to put on a pair of basketball shoes turned 40.
"Forty years old, it's a number that says a lot," Jordan told the Washington Post. "I'm well experienced. I'm happy to be alive and happy to be playing the game of basketball, and I'm happy to be 40 years old. There's nothing negative about that."
While turning 40 is a great milestone, it's old for a professional athlete in any sport. Even most left-handed middle relievers past the age of 40 are looked at as no more than spot pitchers. And for a guard in the National Basketball Association, it's a rare thing indeed.
Only four guards have played in the NBA at or past the age of 40 -- Jordan, Utah's John Stockton, Toronto's John Long and Bob Cousy, who inserted himself as a player while coaching the Cincinnati Royals (now Sacramento Kings).
"I remember years ago talking about how age 33, 34 was the pivotal age for guards," former Bulls and current Los Angeles Lakers coach Phil Jackson told the Chicago Tribune.
"Oscar Robertson got a championship, and the next year the wheels fell off. Walt Frazier the same thing. Jerry West. They played until they were 34, 35 [35 in both cases]. I don't remember anyone before Kareem Abdul-Jabbar playing after 40. But now you see guards doing it. It's remarkable."
Cousy was 41 when he inserted himself into the lineup for seven games during the 1969-70 season and averaged a scant 0.7 points and 1.4 assists per game in his seven game stint.
Stockton, however, hasn't slowed down. At age 40, the Jazz point guard is still among the league leaders in assists (fourth at 7.6 per game) and leads the league in assists per 48 minutes (13.1). That, and he hasn't missed a game since the 1997-98 season.
What Jordan has done is also exceptional, considering "Pistol" Pete Maravich died of a heart attack at the age of 39 after playing in a pickup game. For Jordan to be one of the better guards in the league chasing guards and forwards around the perimeter who are almost half his age is remarkable.
"If we decide to play our respective sport, we expect to have an impact, at least to be successful players," Jordan told the Washington Post.
As for Jordan coming back for another go round in the league, that won't happen. Jordan told the New York Daily News that winning an NBA title, "wouldn't change my thinking. I've come to grips with that. My gut basically has said, this is it, and I'm going to go with that."
So, go with your gut Mike. Retire, enjoy life. It's the best present you can give to yourself.
We wish you a Happy Birthday and many more. Meanwhile, our gift to you: another list of milestones and numbers that are pure Jordan.
Jordan: By the Numbers
866 -- Consecutive games in double figures*
172 -- Career 40-plus point games
69 -- Points against Cleveland on March 28, 1990, a career high
63 -- Points in a playoff game against Boston on May 20, 1986*
52 -- Sports Illustrated covers (an SI record)
45 -- Number Jordan briefly wore when he returned from his first retirement
41.0 -- Scoring average in the 1993 NBA Finals*
40 -- Happy Birthday, Mike
37.1 -- Highest single season scoring average (1986-87)
37 -- Times scored 40-plus points in 1986-87
33.4 -- Career playoff scoring average*
30.3 -- Career scoring average*
26 -- Current number of NBA assistants younger than Jordan
23 -- Well, duh
18 -- Versions of Air Jordans (the latest are suede)
14 -- All-Star Game appearances
13 -- Jordan's shoe size
10 -- NBA scoring titles*
9 -- All-NBA Defensive first-team*
7 -- Consecutive seasons leading the league in scoring*
6 -- Finals MVPs, NBA titles
5 -- Regular season MVPs
4 --Coaches played for (Kevin Loughery, Stan Albeck, Doug Collins (twice) and Phil Jackson)
3-- NBA head coaches who are younger than Jordan (Golden State's Eric Mussleman, 37, Seattle's Nate McMillan, 38, and Cleveland's Keith Smart, 39)
2 -- Olympic gold medals (1984, 1992); retirements (so far --1993, 1998)
1 -- Rookie of the Year award (1985)
* NBA record held or tied