Fans See Proof: Jordan's Still Got It
Posted Oct 9 2001 12:00AM
MJ dominates early stages of Wizards scrimmage
WILMINGTON, N.C., Oct. 9 (AP) -- Michael Jordan gave a glimpse of what his 38-year-old body can do, dominating for short bursts Tuesday night in his first public competition in more than three years.
Playing in front of his hometown fans at UNC-Wilmington, Jordan scored 13 points in 18 minutes of a Washington Wizards' intrasquad scrimmage before sitting out the final 20 minutes.
Although it was only against teammates, Jordan looked like he had never left the game.
He opened with a three-point play on a driving layup and foul by Courtney Alexander, and made a variety of jump shots and fadeaways to finish 6-for-11 from the field. He also dominated on defense, with three steals and a block, and had three rebounds.
"I felt good," Jordan said. "Obviously, getting out there in a game situation with referees and in front of a crowd are things I enjoy. I have standards I've set for myself, to work myself back into shape and get into a rhythm, and this is just another step in the right direction."
Jordan gave the standing-room only crowd, which included Wizards owners Abe and Irene Pollin, plenty to cheer about right away.
The fans rose to their feet when Jordan stuck out his tongue on a drive early in the first half, then roared when Kwame Brown slammed down the rebound. Jordan also brought the spectators to their feet with a no-look bounce pass that led to a dunk by Bobby Simmons.
Jordan had nine points, a steal and a block before coming out with 10:10 left in the first half.
"Michael, the last couple of practices, sort of picked his spots and you could really just see the energy the crowd gave him tonight," Collins said.
Jordan spent the second half sitting at the end of the bench with a towel draped over his shoulders. He joked with teammates and Wizards officials, watched people in the crowd and even bopped his head to the "Sanford and Son" theme song.
The crowd chanted "We want Jordan!" a couple of times in the second half and one student yelled for Jordan to return because a former Duke player -- Christian Laettner -- was the best player on the court. But by the eight-minute mark, Jordan had ice bags taped to both knees and many of the fans started leaving.
"Doug had a certain amount of minutes he wanted me to play," Jordan said. "I didn't think he would hold to it, but he did I think that's just how the preseason is going to go for me."
Several hundred students, many of whom camped overnight to get tickets last week, lined up outside Trask Coliseum for more than two hours to get good seats.
One row of female students wore white T-shirts with "Wizards" handwritten in blue on the front and several others had shirts with handwritten messages. Another student had a sign that said: "His Airness Takes Flight".
Flashbulbs popped from all around the arena when Jordan first came out of the locker room and a broad grin swept his face as the crowd cheered. The fans also cheered Jordan's first layup during warmups and drowned out the public address announcer when his name was called during introductions.