On Wednesday, January 13, 1999, Michael Jordan made an announcement
that many National Basketball Association(NBA) fans expected but
did not look forward to: He would be retiring from the NBA for the
second, and most likely final time. "This is a perfect time
for me to walk away from the game," Jordan stated at a press
conference. "I am at peace with that." At that same conference,
Bull's chairman Jerry Reinsdorf expressed what basketball fans everywhere
were feeling, "This is a day I hoped would never come. It is
a tough day for basketball fans around the world."
But NBA commissioner David Stearn disagreed. "This is a great
day. The greatest player is retiring with the grace that describes
his play," he said. Jordan certainly leaves the game with an
amazing legacy. The Bulls won six NBA Championships during his two
stints there, three before and three after his first retirement.
He also leaves as a five-time league MVP, as well as the 10-time
league scoring champion. Perhaps most remarkable of all, he leaves
as the number one per game scorer in NBA history. League officials,
players and coaches all offered praise for the man on this historic
day. Stern thanked him for his contribution to the game of basketball,
and Reinsdorf said that "Michael is simply the best player
who ever put on a basketball uniform." Miami Heat Coach Pat
Riley said of the fact that he never beat Jordan in a NBA Championship,
"That bothers me."
When Jordan retired for the first time in October of 1993, he stated
that he would consider returning to the game, but now, he is "99"
percent sure of his decision to retire. "You can read that
for what it's worth.I'm very secure in my decision."
Throughout the delay of the 1998-99 NBA season, sports fans and
journalists predicted scenarios and stipulated conditions that would
delay Jordan's departure, most concerning the rehirement of Chicago
coach Phil Jackson by that organization. Jordan had said that he
would not play under any coach other than Jackson, so it is no surprise
that Jordan chose to retire after Jackson left the Bulls.
Although Jordan insists that this is a decision to which many factors
contributed, including Jackson's departure, but also primarily due
to the fact that the athlete felt that the game no longer challenged
him mentally. "Mentally, I'm exhausted, I don't feel I have
a challenge," Jordan admitted. "Physically, I feel great."
Jordan said that he would live "vicariously through his kids,"
and "do things that I've never done before." He may be
interested to know what his wife sees him doing: "I see Michael
doing a lot more carpooling." Jordan will also see to his business
ventures. The athlete makes an estimated $45 million a year through
Perhaps Jordan's legacy will be the athlete's pursuit of perfection.
Jordan also will be remembered as an athlete who never tarnished
his character publicly, even after the untimely death of his father
in 1993. And in an industry where players hit their coaches or cause
them to be fired, or where players make more of an impact with their
words and image than with their play, perhaps Jordan will be remembered
as one of the few who let their play and conduct speak for themselves.
In the White House, President Clinton praised Jordan for qualities
of "mind, body, and spirit." He added that Jordan "always
expected to do whatever it was he tried to do." When he emerged
from retirement in March of 1995, Jordan said simply, "I'm
back." He leaves the game this time with a statement almost
as short and just as memorable, "I tried to be the best basketball
player I could be."
Fundamentals has been launched. It is an education grants program
for public school teachers. The grant program, funded by a portion
of the proceeds from the JORDAN Apparel brand, will donate $1 million
a year for the next five years. In its first year the program will
grant 400 awards of $2,500 each to teachers who "demonstrate
instructional creativity and exemplify high learning expectations
for underserved students."