Stoner Steps

    Last Tuesday, he signed a two-year contract with the Washington Wizards and officially slid down the spectrum from “”99.9 percent sure of never coming back”” to “”gimme the ball.””

    For those loyal Guardian sports readers, if such people even exist, they might remember a column I wrote last year advising Jordan to stay retired and not attempt another comeback. For anyone who might actually remember the article, I stand by my arguments. To the majority who probably have never read any of my columns before, I will review the reasons I don’t think Jordan should return.

    First of all, there’s one valid argument in favor of Jordan’s return that I cannot deny: the benefit he gains by being forced to sell his stock in the Wizards, one of the worst teams in the league last year. That’s worth coming out of retirement for.

    But honestly, as much as I love watching Jordan play basketball, I believe it’s against his best interests to return to the NBA.

    First of all, there’s no question that he’s older and slower than when he played for the Bulls. He already suffered back spasms and knee tendinitis trying to get back into shape last summer, not to mention being out of commission for four weeks after sustaining two cracked ribs in a pickup game. All this was just during the summer! Who knows what’ll happen during a grueling 82-game schedule against younger, quicker opponents. What if he gets injured and is forced to end his career for good, while on the disabled list? I think that would be a terrible injustice to a legend who could have ended his career with the game-winning shot to earn his sixth NBA championship.

    Second, there’s the possibility that he simply cannot compete with the younger stars in the NBA. You know Kobe Bryant, Allen Iverson, Vince Carter and company will be positively salivating for a chance to show Jordan up and claim the title of “”the next Michael Jordan.”” I wish Jordan the best of luck against those punks, but what if he simply cannot play at their level? I fear what the realization of this, if it occurs, would do to his competitive heart.

    But forget the individual competition for a sec; how is Jordan going to be able to handle playing on a team that’s mediocre at best? The Wizards are in a rebuilding stage right now (which was partly Jordan’s work when he was the team’s chief executive officer) and could only make the playoffs with the aid of some sort of miracle.

    I want Jordan to be that miracle, I really do. But I’m afraid he won’t be. I’m afraid that my last memories of this champion will be of him as a loser, which is not how one should remember the greatest basketball player of all time.

    He will be playing with some very young players, including Kwame Brown, the No. 1 pick in the draft last June. How will they respond to him? Jordan has said that he feels this will be a good way to help develop and teach the Wizards’ immature players, but he doesn’t have to play to teach. He could fire Doug Collins, the coach he hired, and take over the Wizards himself. Jordan will be doing most of the coaching anyway — do you really think Collins is going to try to tell His Airness what to do out there on the basketball court?

    But what if Jordan drives these fragile rookies too hard the way he did with previous teammates who left for other teams or even quit basketball?

    Anyone reading back through this article will notice that there are a lot of questions. I won’t deny that I’m excited about seeing Jordan back in action again, and if he does manage to perform a miracle with the Wizards, I will happily eat my words.

    But he has so much to lose. Any smudge, smear, or tarnish that could occur to Jordan’s legend would reduce the legacy of the greatest basketball players and athletes of all time. I, for one, want to remember Jordan as a winner, not as a loser.

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