NBA.com takes a look back at the top moments that define the history of the NBA.
When Michael Jordan retired for the second time in January of 1999, he said he was “99.9 percent certain” that he would never in the NBA again. Less than two years later, on Sept. 25, 2001, that 0.1 percent chance won out. Jordan announced his return to the NBA, this time as a member of the Washington Wizards.
Jordan had joined the Wizards as president of basketball operations on Jan. 19, 2000. About six months before his return, he began a rigorous training routine in anticipation of a comeback.
At first, Jordan cooled expectations by saying he was simply trying to shed extra weight he’d gained in retirement. But when he began hosting invitation-only camps for NBA players and then hired his former Chicago Bulls coach, Doug Collins, to coach the Wizards, the stage was set.
After announcing his return and donating his entire 2001-02 salary to September 11 relief efforts, Jordan had fans lined up for tickets hoping for one more glimpse of the game’s greatest player.
At 38 and more than three years removed from the last of his six championships with the Chicago Bulls, no one knew quite what to expect from Jordan. The Wizards sold out every home game in his two seasons there, but the team failed to make the playoffs with Jordan as a player.
Fans weren’t left empty handed, though.
While Jordan’s 2001-02 season was cut short by a knee injury that limited him to 60 games, he still averaged 22.9 ppg, 5.2 apg and 5.7 rpg. He also found his way into the record books with a few more legendary performances.
On Dec. 29, 2001, just two days after the worst game of his career, Jordan exploded for 51 points against the Charlotte Hornets to become the oldest player in NBA history to reach the 50-point threshold in a game.