However, you can’t have success in every walk of life, and Jordan found that out the hard way with the Washington Wizards. The six-time champion was the Wizards’ president from January 2000 to September 2001 before coming out of retirement for the second time to play through the 2003 season. While he had some vintage moments on the court, Jordan was fired as the team’s top decision-maker — a role he kept even after returning as a player — in May 2003, and it came as a shock to the basketball legend.
Michael Jordan felt “used” by Wizards
The Wizards hired Jordan in January 2000. He made several questionable moves from his front-office position, one of the main reasons why the franchise went 110-179 with Jordan as the top decision-maker.
In October 2001, Jordan made his return to the court. He felt he could help the Wizards learn what it takes to win and guide the young players to the playoffs. However, Washington went 37-45 in 2001-02 and missed the playoffs. They finished with the same record in 2002-03.
During the 2005-06 season, Jordan did an interview with 60 minutes and said he felt “used” by the Wizards. He was also surprised he got fired since he planned to resume his front-office job.
“I didn’t have to [start playing again]. But I did it with the benefit of trying to help an organization to get back on their feet,” Jordan said. “And the gratitude that was given? It was ‘your service is no longer wanted or needed.’ So I felt like I was used in a sense. I felt like I played injured. I went through [knee] surgery, and I did the things that a lot of these young kids did not do.”
Jordan was clearly angry about getting fired. However, the Wizards felt they had to make a change since their most prominent player was also in charge, and it proved to be too awkward for many of the players.
Why was Michael Jordan fired by the Wizards?
According to Joseph White of The Associated Press, there were three reasons why the Wizards fired Jordan: player dissension, a franchise faltering after the years of Jordan in charge, and deteriorating relationships throughout the organization.
After being fired, Jordan didn’t release a statement thanking the Wizards, which was telling. However, owner Abe Pollin, who fired MJ, did put out a few words thanking the six-time Finals MVP for his contributions.
“I firmly believe that Michael’s time with us as a player will have a lasting impact on every player on our roster, and there is no question that our fans were treated to a very unique two seasons as the greatest player in the world completed his career here in Washington,” Pollin said.
Jordan never missed the playoffs during his time with the Bulls. He clearly didn’t bond with his teammates on the Wizards, which played a role in the team not having good chemistry. Additionally, reports in the New York Times and Washington Post talked of a rift between Pollin’s people and Jordan’s associates.
On the court, Jordan wasn’t an efficient scorer with the Wizards. However, he still showed he could put the ball in the hole.
His Airness averaged 21.2 points with Washington
In 142 games with the Wizards, Jordan averaged 21.2 points, 5.9 rebounds, and 4.4 assists while shooting 43.1% from the field, 24.1% from beyond the arc, and 80.5% from the free-throw line. Washington went 30-30 with His Airness in the lineup in 2001-02 and 37-45 the following season.
On December 29, 2001, Jordan turned back the clock by scoring 51 points against the Charlotte Hornets. It was an incredible performance by a player who was 38 years old and had a bad knee.
Several basketball fans were curious why Jordan’s Wizards tenure wasn’t discussed in the popular Last Dance docuseries. However, after revisiting how tumultuous it was, it’s not surprising that one of the most competitive athletes ever didn’t want to discuss one of his biggest failures.
Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference.