Michael Jordan did not retire following the events of The Last Dance. Bombshell, right?
For sports fans who took a keen interest in the Chicago Bulls star at the time, that’s hardly a revelation, but new converts to Jordan may not know that while the 1997/98 season was indeed his last dance in Chi-town, his last game in the NBA came in 2003.
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Jordan retired from basketball for a second time when the Bulls were split up by general manager Jerry Krause, but was coaxed back into the game for two seasons with the Washington Wizards between 2001 and 2003. He played 60 games in his comeback year, and all 82 in his final season before a third – and definitive – retirement.
He led the team in scoring, assists and steals in 2001/02 before torn cartilage in his right knee prematurely brought his season to an end. Jordan returned in 2002/03 – during which he turned 40 – and brought an inevitable wave of popularity to the Wizards.
However, Jordan couldn’t bring success to the team. The Wizards failed to reach the play-offs in either season as Jordan bemoaned the teammates around him. He would openly criticise members of the squad in the media, perhaps trying to replicate the fearsome aura he cultivated and used to mould players with in Chicago.
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Ultimately, his spell in Washington would have been a failure in his eyes, after all, they didn’t win anything. However, during his very last outing – on the road against the Philadelphia 76ers in April 2003 – the packed-out opposing crowd chanted for Jordan to come off the bench and see the game out. He did so for less than a minute, then left the court to a three-minute standing ovation from his teammates, opponents, officials, and the entire crowd.
Jordan’s true last dance.