How Did Michael Jordan’s True ‘Last Dance’ Season Play Out?
While The Last Dance recently went through Michael Jordan‘s entire career with the Chicago Bulls, culminating with his sixth NBA title in 1998, it never touched on his true “Last Dance” campaign in the NBA, the 2002-2003 season with the Washington Wizards. So I thought it might be fun to go back and take a look at MJ’s 15th and final season and it was actually much better than I remembered.
Michael Jordan was the only player on the Wizards to play all 82 games that season
After playing just 60 games the previous season, Michael Jordan played all 82 games for the Washington Wizards in 2002-2003, the only player on the roster to do so. While it was initially thought that he would take on more of a sixth man role with the team that year, he still started 67 of those games, averaging 37 minutes per night, the exact same amount of minutes he averaged in 1990-1991, the season he won his first title with the Bulls.
Michael Jordan became the first player to score 40 points at the age of 40
For the first time in his career, Michael Jordan was not the leading scorer on his own team. That honor belonged to Jerry Stackhouse, who averaged 21.5 points to MJ’s 20. But that didn’t mean that there weren’t some throwback nights for Jordan during the year.
Jordan turned 40 on February 17, 2003, and just four days later became the first player in NBA history to put up 40 or more points at the age of 40, scoring 43 against the then-New Jersey Nets, nearly half of Washington’s points in an 89-86 win for the Wizards. That was actually the third time he scored 40 or more that season and the final time he’d do it in his career.
The Wizards missed the playoffs but MJ had a more productive season than he’s given credit for
It’s obvious that Michael Jordan wasn’t even close to being in his prime in his true “Last Dance” season in the NBA but that didn’t mean he didn’t have a productive season. Despite only he, Stackhouse, and Larry Hughes being the only double-digit scorers for Washington that season, Jordan still had the Wizards in the playoff hunt near the end of the season, ultimately finishing ninth in the Eastern Conference. And while many simply want to forget Jordan ever even played in a uniform that wasn’t a Chicago Bulls one, his season actually wasn’t all that terrible.
Accused by some of putting up too many shots, he actually only put up 18.6 shots per game, more than four below his career average, and the second-lowest average of his career. While his 20 points per game were the lowest of his career, he still finished 25th in the league in scoring that season. Not bad for a guy who turned 40 midway through the campaign. He was second on the team in rebounding (6.1), led the team in steals (1.5), and was fourth in assists (3.8). And that block on Ron Mercer (video above) was pure insanity.
No, Michael Jordan’s final season in the NBA wasn’t the movie ending that his “Last Dance” season with the Chicago Bulls was but it was never supposed to be. But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t entertaining.
*All stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference