It’s rare for a sports fan to see a legend — like, a certified, once-in-a-lifetime, worship-the-ground-that-person-walks on legend — grace their favorite team.
It’s even rarer for a sports fan to see that legend grace their favorite team, retire from their favorite team — and then, one day, come back to their favorite team again.
That second thing is something both Bulls supporters and Redskins devotees can relate to.
In the debut episode of NBC Sports’ brand new Sports Uncovered podcast, Michael Jordan’s first memorable return from retirement is chronicled. While his “I’m back” statement was as brief as it gets, the impact he would make after releasing it was anything but.
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Now, while Joe Gibbs’ second stint with the Burgundy and Gold didn’t register on a national, much less an international, scale like Jordan’s second run in Chicago did, it did completely reinvigorate the region and everyone who cared about football in Washington.
To be fair, I was only 10 years old when Gibbs 2.0 began, making it impossible to grasp what that shocking move truly meant. That said, I remember the way my mom reacted when she heard the news, and the reverence with which she spoke about the head coach is something that sticks with me. We went out to walk our dog around the block right after she found out, and she couldn’t stop talking about the leader and the man he was.
When I ask my coworkers or other folks who were invested in those dominant, Gibbs-led Redskins teams during his first go-round how they felt after hearing there’d be more, that same reverence is evident in their voices, too. It makes me wish I was older when Dan Snyder brought Gibbs back. I would’ve loved to have been swept up in that kind of excitement.
Unfortunately, while Jordan would go on to notch yet another three-peat with the Bulls, Gibbs couldn’t come close to replicating his first tidal wave of success and glory. In four seasons, he made the playoffs twice. For the Redskins in the 2000s, that’s about as good as it gets. For him, however, it was modest.
But no one knew that would be the ending when Gibbs’ return first became a reality. All Redskins fans knew in early January of 2004 was that they were getting their Hall of Famer back. That alone was its own victory.
Nowadays, whenever a star calls it quits, one of the first questions that often gets asked is, “What are the chances they come back?” Well, Gibbs did come back. The sequel wasn’t better than the original, obviously, but the fact that a sequel existed at all is still remarkable.