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Michael Jordan Returns To NBA By Josh Sekine and Eric Hernandez, washingtonwizards.com
September 25, 2001

After months of anticipation, Michael Jordan announced today that he will hang-up his business suit and put on a Washington Wizards uniform this season.

"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," said Jordan.

The announcement means that the five-time NBA Most Valuable Player and six-time NBA Champion will suit up for the first time since hitting the championship winning shot in the 1998 NBA Finals.

"The greatest player in the history of the game is joining my team, and for that I am extremely honored and pleased," said Washington Sports and Entertainment Chairman Abe Pollin.

Jordan will make his return to the NBA by signing a two-year contract with the Wizards and will donate all of his first year's salary to relief efforts for the victims of the tragedy which took place on September 11.

"Although I am energized by my impending return to the court, I am deeply saddened by the recent tragic events and my heart goes out to the victims and their families," said Jordan. "Out of deep respect for them, I will not participate in media interviews before the start of training camp on October 1."

In compliance with NBA rules, he plans to divest his ownership position with Lincoln Holdings, and will resign as the team's President of Basketball Operations, a position he had held since January 2000.

"He is an astute and successful business executive -- and his love of the game has led him back to this latest chapter in his storied playing career," commented Ted Leonsis, Founder, Chairman and CEO of Lincoln Holdings.

During his tenure as President of Basketball Operations, Jordan is credited with creating future salary cap room as well as acquiring younger players that the team can build upon. Earlier this year he made history by drafting Kwame Brown, the first high school player to be selected first overall in the NBA draft.

Wizards Head Coach Doug Collins, who served as Jordan's Head Coach for three seasons during his tenure with the Chicago Bulls, said that Jordan's motivation is none like he has ever seen. A recent conversation between the two indicated that Jordan's love for the game has not faded.

"I felt like I was talking to a guy who's looking forward to playing his first NBA game. That's the kind of energy and excitement that he had," Collins said.

Jordan now brings his veteran leadership and NBA experience to one of the youngest teams in the NBA with an average age of 25. He will be looked to as a mentor to help develop some of the players.

"He's someone you can really look up to and see a work ethic, and just admire and see what it really takes to work hard and give it your all," Wizards forward Etan Thomas said. "I think that he is definitely someone that you can look up to and definitely learn from."

Collins adds that "with a young team, if you put Michael Jordan on the practice floor everyday with these young guys and they just see why he's Michael Jordan, it would be the greatest thing that these young guys could ever get."

"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," said Jordan. "While nothing can take away from the past, I am firmly focused on the future and the competitive challenge ahead of me."

Entering the 2001-02 season, Jordan ranks first in NBA history in scoring average (31.5 ppg), third in steals (2,306), fourth in points (29,277), fifth in field-goals made (10,962), sixth in field-goals attempted (21,686) and seventh in free-throws made (6,798). Jordan also led the league in scoring for a record 10 seasons.

Jordan is no stranger to comebacks. In 1995 he returned to the Chicago Bulls after retiring in 1993 following the Bulls third-straight NBA Championship. He cited in his 1993 retirement speech that the loss of his father and the fact that, he felt at the time, there were no more challenges for him in professional basketball and it was time for him to leave the game.

"I feel that at this particular time in my career I have reached the pinnacle of my career," Jordan said in his 1993 retirement press conference. "I have achieved a lot in that short amount of time, but I just feel I don't have anything else for myself to prove."

Although he was no longer a professional basketball player, the competitive nature burned inside him. In 1994 Jordan fulfilled a life long dream of playing professional baseball. He signed on with the Chicago White Sox, and was assigned to the team's AA affiliate Birmingham Barons where he played outfield.

After his short baseball stint, Jordan decided that his love for the game of basketball was too strong, and on March 19, 1995 Jordan returned from retirement and took the court with the Bulls against the Indiana Pacers. In the game, Jordan played 43 minutes scoring 19 points, grabbing six rebounds, dishing six assists and three steals.

In the next three seasons, Jordan would lead his team back to the top of the NBA, winning three more championships and setting the record for most wins by a team, 72 victories, in 1996.

Jordan once again called it quits from the NBA on January 13, 1999, just six-months after hitting one of the most memorable shots in NBA history, a championship winning jumper against the Utah Jazz in Game 6 of the 1998 NBA Finals.

In the second retirement speech, Jordan cited that he was moving away from basketball to pursue a life away from the game. "After a great deal of thought, as well as discussion with my family, I have decided to retire from basketball," Jordan said in his 1999 retirement statement. "In the coming months, I look forward to spending more time with my family, something that was not always possible because of the demands of basketball. I also have other things I hope to accomplish, especially in the business world."

Almost a year to the date of his second retirement, Jordan joined Washington Sports and Entertainment on January 19, 2000 as part owner. Jordan was also named President of Basketball Operation and oversaw all aspects of Wizards basketball operations.