Michael Jordan had a 13-year illustrious career with the Chicago Bulls, but his playing career ended with the Washington Wizards when he returned following a three-year retirement from the NBA.
It was a surprising move that left NBA fans around the world with their jaws dropped at the time.
Jordan’s first retirement from the NBA came in 1993 after his father died and he switched to baseball, but he was back on the NBA court about 18 months later. He then won three more championships with the Bulls before retiring a second time in 1998.
Jordan first joined the Washington Wizards as President of Basketball Operations and part owner of the team in January 2000, before he got back playing in the NBA for the Wizards.
“I’m going to have my imprints and footprints all over this organization,” Jordan said in an interview in 2000. “I look forward to turning this thing around. Right now we’re an underachieving team.”
The Wizards were able to land the superstar after owner Ted Leonsis reached out in September 1999.
“I said, ‘Tell me what you’re interested in’,” Leonsis asked Jordan.
“I want to win more championships. I want equity. I want to run the basketball operations,” Jordan replied.
Less than two years later, Jordan put himself on the roster of the Wizards as he returned to the NBA as a player in 2001:
“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,” Jordan said.
“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.”
“While nothing can take away from the past, I am firmly focused on the future and the competitive challenge ahead of me,” Jordan said.
Jordan added that the loyalty from the fans in Washington “strongly influenced my decision.”
His comeback wasn’t as successful the second time around, as he failed to take the Wizards to the playoffs in either of his two seasons.
Jordan earned two All-Star selections while averaging a combined 21.2 points per game, but it was a stark contrast from his 31.5 points per game during his 13 years in Chicago.
In his best game for the Wizards, Jordan scored 51 points and set franchise records with 24 first-quarter points and 34 points in a half, when the Wizards beat hosts Charlotte Hornets 107-90.
Jordan made 21 of 38 shots from the field, 9 of 10 free throws and had 7 rebounds and 4 assists in 38 minutes.
And on April 16 2003, Jordan left for the bench one last time in his NBA career in a game against the Philadelphia 76ers after two seasons with the Wizards.
The crowd, his teammates, opponents and officials all took part in a three-minute standing ovation as the world said goodbye to the game’s greatest player.