Those fans have their reasons. Patriots fans who watched Tom Brady lead the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to a Lombardi Trophy last year can certainly relate to seeing an all-time great in a new and strange uniform.
Although it’s understandable that many want to ignore Jordan’s time in Washington, let’s look back at a 142-game stint that was far more productive than people want to admit.
Michael Jordan played two seasons with the Wizards
When Michael Jordan concluded his Last Dance after the 1997-98 season, he made it clear that his career was over.
But much like Jordan’s time playing minor league baseball, he only lasted away from basketball for so long. Jordan spent January 2000-September 2001 as an executive and co-owner of the Washington Wizards, a job that allowed him to infamously use the No. 1 overall pick on high school center Kwame Brown.
Weeks before the 2001-02 season began, Jordan announced his return to basketball. Jordan returned in part so that he could donate his salary to victims of the September 11 attacks.
When the Wizards opened preseason play in October 2001, there was Jordan in his No. 23 jersey. But anyone who believed Jordan would quickly turn the Wizards into NBA Finals contenders were left disappointed.
Jordan played far better than basketball fans will admit
From an on-field perspective, Michael Jordan played exceptionally well on the Wizards, especially for someone in his late 30s.
Jordan averaged 21.2 points, 5.9 rebounds, 4.4 assists, and 1.5 steals in 142 games and 120 starts across two seasons in Washington. The six-time NBA champion made 43.1% of his shots, which is telling of just how dominant Jordan was in Chicago. While with the Bulls, Jordan never shot less than 46.5% from the field in an entire season.
Jordan flashed at times, even scoring 51 points in a 17-point victory over Baron Davis and the Hornets on Dec. 29, 2001. Considering he played his final game at age 40, Jordan deserves a pass for not living up to the unrealistic expectations that many may have had regarding his comeback.
Michael Jordan was productive, and he mostly managed to keep his dignity with the Wizards.
Michael Jordan’s Wizards tenure is still best left behind
Hindsight being 20/20, maybe Michael Jordan should have stayed retired after his final game with the Bulls.
Jordan’s tenure with the Washington Wizards will never be remembered fondly. On the court, Jordan was an aging superstar who tried at times to still be the Jordan of years prior.
Off the court, Jordan feuded with teammates and left a stain on the Wizards’ locker room. Some of his decisions as an executive, including drafting Kwame Brown, greatly hurt the Wizards’ chances to compete.
But, Jordan’s time in Washington wasn’t as bad as basketball fans seem to think. If anything, it’s just too bad that Jordan played his final game only months before LeBron James made his NBA debut.