The Big Twenty

The Big Twenty: The Michael Jordan era with the Wizards

The Big Twenty

Throughout the 59 seasons in Wizards/Bullets franchise history, there have rarely been times where the team was at the forefront of the national sports conversation. And some of those instances have not been for good reasons.

That was not the case in the early 2000s, as the biggest star to ever to play in the NBA decided to trade in his executive suite for a Wizards uniform and return to the game. Michael Jordan, the greatest player in basketball history, announced his second comeback to the NBA on Sept. 25, 2001.

Jordan had previously only played for the Chicago Bulls, but he had joined the Wizards organization the year before as part owner and president of basketball operations. His brief tenure running their front office was unsuccessful and included the infamous decision to draft Kwame Brown with the first overall pick in 2001.

But as a player, he proved he could still compete with the best in the NBA despite playing for the Wizards at Age 38 and 39. In his first season, he averaged 22.9 points in 60 games with 5.7 rebounds, 5.2 assists and 1.4 steals. His second and final season saw him average 20.0 points, 6.1 rebounds and 3.8 assists. He played 37 minutes a night and appeared in all 82 games.

The Wizards didn't make the playoffs in either of those seasons, the first in part because Jordan missed 22 games due to injury. But they were some of the more entertaining years in franchise history.

Jordan scored 40 points or more eight times with the Wizards. He dropped 51 against the Charlotte Hornets on Dec. 29, 2001 at the age of 38. That was the record for oldest player to score 50 until Jamal Crawford did so at Age 39 last April.

 

Jordan didn't have the same vertical leap or burst of speed with the Wizards that he did with the Bulls, but he still got buckets because he was the smartest player on the floor. He used old school moves in the midrange to light up opponents who were half his age.

And he still had the knack for making clutch shots. Jordan sank a series of buzzer-beaters, including one against the Phoenix Suns and one against his longtime doormat, the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Jordan's most famous late-game shot as a Wizard, however, was in the 2003 All-Star Game. He knocked down a fadeaway over Shawn Marion, one of the league's best defenders at the time.

Throughout those two years, the Wizards sold out games at home and on the road. At away games, No. 23 Wizards jerseys peppered the crowd. Wizards gear could be seen in major cities all around the country. He made the Wizards more relevant than they have ever been since the name was changed from Bullets in 1997.

Jordan's tenure, though, ended on rocky terms. When he finished playing, he left the organization altogether. It was a clean break, no return to the front office or any involvement with the franchise whatsoever.

And his departure was capped with a famous picture of Jordan driving out of the arena and onto 6th St. in his Mercedes convertible. The greatest NBA player of all-time had left the building.