Originally published Oct. 7, 1993.
MichaelJordanleft basketball Wednesday the way he always said he would — at the top of his game, on his own terms, in his own time.
”I love the game of basketball; I always will,”Jordantold a crowd of national and international reporters packed on the playing floor at the Bulls’ Deerfield practice facility.
”I just feel that at this particular time, I’ve reached the pinnacle of my career. ... I just feel that I don’t have anything else to prove.”
Jordandid walk out the door, but he refused to close it behind him.
”I’m not making this a ‘never’ issue,” he said. “I’m saying I don’t have the drive right now.
”Five years down the line, if the urge comes back, if the Bulls will have me and (NBA commissioner) David Stern lets me back in the league, I may come back. But that’s a decision I don’t have to make at this moment.”
Jordanspoke for about an hour, first making a statement and then answering questions. He chided the media at times for how they treated him and scrutinized his personal life, but he insisted he had not been “run out of the game.”
Jordansaid he reached his decision to retire at the end of last season, but he waited through the summer to make sure he did not have a strong desire to play. He said the murder of his father, James, in July was not a primary reason for his decision, but it did strengthen his resolve.Jordansaid the loss of his father made him realize that “it can be taken away from you at any time. And there’s still a lot of things for me to go out and achieve.”
Jordansaid his father encouraged him to retire after the Bulls won their first NBA title in 1990-91, but he had a strong desire to win more titles.
”I guess the biggest gratification - I am a very positive person - I can get out of my father not being here today is that he saw my last basketball game,”Jordansaid. “It is something that we have talked about a lot.”
Jordansat at the center of a table with his wife, Juanita, at his side and Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf seated on his other side. Bulls coach Phil Jackson,Jordanattorney David Falk and Bulls vice president of basketball operations Jerry Krause were nearby, as were representatives ofJordan’s corporate sponsors.
Behind the table stood several Bulls, including Scottie Pippen, John Paxson, Bill Cartwright, Scott Williams and B.J. Armstrong.
”I have always stressed . . . that when I lose the sense of motivation and the sense to prove something as a basketball player, it’s time to leave,”Jordansaid.
”I never wanted to leave when my skills started to diminish because that’s when I’d feel the foot in my back, pushing me out the door. My skills are still good. I am not on the downside of my career. . . . This is the perfect time for me to walk away.”
Jordansaid it was never his intention to steal any thunder from the White Sox’ playoff run and that the timing of his announcement was made for the sake of his teammates, who begin training camp tomorrow.
”I wanted to get it over and done with before training camp starts because I feel the team has to start on its own two feet, and that should start on the first day of training camp,”Jordansaid.
Jordansaid he will support his former teammates any way possible and expects to stay in touch with them.
”I will attend some games; I won’t tell you which ones,”Jordansaid. “I’m still an avid basketball fan, and I’m still an avid Chicago Bulls fan. I will come to some of the practices.”
Jordansaid he wants to make a career out of being a family man and planned to spend time with his wife, three children and friends.
”There are a lot of family members and friends that I haven’t seen because I’ve been very selfish in my career to try to get to this point and make sure that I achieved all the dreams that I wanted to achieve,”Jordansaid. “Now that I’m here, it’s time to be a little bit unselfish in terms of spending more time with my family, my wife, my kids and just get back to a normal life, as close to it as I could.”
When asked what his special contribution to basketball had been,Jordanhad a joke ready.
”My special contribution was the tongue,”Jordansaid about his famous on-court tongue-wagging. “You never saw anything like it, and you may never see anything like it again.”
Just about everyone at the Berto Center agreed they never would see the likes ofJordanagain. Everyone, that is, exceptJordan.
”You’re always going to have a better man out there somewhere,”Jordansaid. “It may be one, two, three, four, five, maybe 10, 20 years down the road, but there’s a better man. That’s not one of my fears.
”Hopefully when that person comes along and maybe has an impact as a Magic Johnson, Dr. J, Larry Bird, Charles Barkley or myself, he’ll feel the same way.”