Final season still heyday for MJ

March 13, 2003, midnight | By Ben Meiselman | 17 years, 10 months ago

Wizards guard is key reason for playoff push and still one of top players in the NBA

Michael Jordan has graced the NBA with his presence on the court for 15 seasons. The five-time MVP led the Chicago Bulls to six NBA championships and is third all-time in scoring.

In the NBA's 52nd All-Star game on Feb 9, shooting guard Vince Carter gave up his spot in the starting lineup to Jordan, defying the fans' vote out of respect for Jordan, who deserves it as much as anybody. Looking back on Jordan's career is a sight to see, but don't miss what's coming up next.

Jordan is arguably the greatest player in history, but the well-deserved tribute to his career by fans and players is premature. Jordan is still good and should be treated like the talent he still is, not like a has-been. His history is important to the game and to appreciative fans, but anything other than competition is contrary to the attitude that earned his accomplishments in the first place.

Jordan deserves not to be treated like a thing of the past—his days are numbered but not yet gone. No one is more fed up with the hype than Jordan himself. "Hopefully it doesn't get like this everywhere I go," said Jordan in the Washington Post after the All-Star Game, in which he received an extra share of the festivities and a spot on the starting roster.

Jordan has scored 31,892 points in 40,245 minutes in 1,053 games. It would be perfectly understandable for him to be slowing down. He turned 40 on Feb 17 and missed 22 games last season from recurring knee problems. In the Wizards' 83-78 victory over the Indiana Pacers on Feb 25, Jordan collided with Reggie Miller and sustained an injury to his thigh that caused swelling in his knee, Jordan's personal Achilles' heel.

But instead of fading away, Jordan is putting it all into this season because he knows that after the next 19 games, plus a possible playoff berth, he will have the rest of his life to recover. At the beginning of this season, Jordan conveyed his intention to play off the bench but has started 48 of 63 games so far this season. He leads the Washington Wizards in field goals, assists, steals, points and, most surprisingly, minutes.

In the five games after his 40th birthday, he has averaged 30.6 points and 8.4 rebounds, both of which exceed his career average. This is not just an exhibition for him; he's not a relic from the 1990s we nostalgically keep around while wishing our home team was good.

Washington has beat some of the best teams in the league, including the Pacers and the defending conference-champion New Jersey Nets, 89-86. The Wizards lost a well-played game in overtime to the Dallas Mavericks, who have by far the best record in the NBA, and proved that they are legitimate playoff contenders.

The All-Star Game, however seriously anyone takes it, is still just an exhibition, so it's not so terrible if it gets overly flashy and nostalgic. When baseball had its midsummer classic in 2001, Cal Ripken got the starting spot even though Troy Glaus obviously had the better stats from the previous year. But the real problem arises when the hype starts coming into the game wherever Jordan goes. "I will have a lot of memories of a lot of places. But I just want to go there, play the game, try to make the playoffs, keep beating teams we can beat. And teams we haven't beaten, we want to beat them, too," he said in the Washington Post.

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Ben Meiselman. Ben Meiselman is a senior in the Communication Arts Program at Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring, Maryland. He enjoys playing sports, especially baseball. Ben is seventeen years old, born May 16, 1985. He has played the trumpet since fourth grade when he began … More »

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