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The Prodigal Son returns

"You Gotta Be Kidding!"
by Mickey Charles CEO, sportsnetwork.com

Michael Jordan
Michael Jordan flashes that "winning" smile, but will it be just a facade once he hits the hardwood again?
Hatboro, PA (Sports Network) -- They are already predicting the embarrassment, forecasting how the younger stars will make him uncomfortable and complicate his world with their speed, crossover dribbles, between the legs machinations and even, perish the thought, outjump and outhustle him. He is not only over the hill, they are muttering, he has a hill of his own right below his chest, however slight it might be right now. They could not rescue the Titanic. How can he hope to salvage the Washington Wizards?

They forewarn that his mind will be making appointments that his body cannot keep. He is only a shadow of what was and one not too discernible at that. He once turned sawdust into gold at will. Now he will have trouble telling one from the other.

Others have tried and failed, almost to a man. The magnet and magic of what was seemed only a short distance away. They all believed that they could summon up the artistry and talent of their younger years. None had a doubt about the capabilities of the bodies they occupied but which were worn by time and inactivity. And, each one underestimated the competition that they would now face in imitations of what they were.

Michael Jordan is 38 years old. Can he will his body and mind to recall every move, the grace and speed that made him the greatest player the sport has ever known? Is it really just ego that is driving him onward, to do what others tried, and failed? Can he climb to the peaks of his sport where those younger than he turned back in retreat and defeat? Will he really suffer the clumsiness and bewilderment that is being prophesied?

Michael Jordan
In this 1994 shot, Chicago White Sox outfielder Michael Jordan bats against the Cubs during a spring training game at Wrigley Field. Jordan had little success playing professional baseball.
Some have singled out his foray with baseball? Nonsense. That was obvious. That was merely the same owner of the Chicago Bulls protecting him during a sabbatical from the sport when the NBA thought that his involvement with gambling had to be swept under the rug tastefully. It was a tactful, but diaphanous, move at the time. One could see through it as easily as glass. Jordan was as much of a baseball player as he is a four handicap. Saying he could conquer either did not make it so.

Why, then, would anyone believe he could reincarnate himself?

Because he is Michael Jordan. Because his talent was extraordinary and so far removed from the norm when he played that even an older genius can still outthink and outgun the sharp shooters at the OK Corral. Kobe Bryant, Vince Carter, Allen Iverson, Tracy McGrady, Chris Webber, Paul Pierce all have their hands on their holsters. Some are salivating, others are wondering if they want to tarnish the image and still others will just want to stand back and watch. What the heck, the Wizards can't win anyway. Give Michael his due and homage.

The NBA loves it and is praying to all the gods known to them that Jordan will not make them uncomfortable the way you squirm in your seat at the theatre or at home on the couch when the figure on the screen has made you uneasy and upset. What is even worse is that he will be between a rock and a hard place if he has to admit that he erred. It is not Michael Jordan's nature to retreat in defeat.

That jump shot in Salt Lake City after pushing his defender, Bryon Russell, into the courtside patrons, unwhistled, out of the way, nailing down a sixth title at the buzzer. And then leaving the game. Hollywood could not have scripted it better.

Washington cannot win. Attendance will go up everywhere but they will not win. Standing ovations are a given. And they will not win. TV ratings will improve. But the Wizards will not win. Will he spend more time on the bench conferring with Doug Collins than out on the court? After the first few weeks, maybe. The luster of Michael Jordan cannot be dulled. The light that was the picture of him taking off from the foul line, heading towards the basket with one outstretched hand holding the ball like a toy and his tongue stuck out waiting for a depressor, his feet apart, will not diminish.

He loves the game, the challenge, and he is bored. This is what he does best. Three years after winning his sixth NBA championship he is back. He did this once before, in 1995. Now he signs a two-year contract for the league's 10-year-verteran minimum of $1 million and he donates it to victims and their families of the September 11th attack on the Unites States, the World Trade Center in New York City. In 1997-1998 he earned $36 million.

He is a five-time league MVP, 10-time scoring champion and the best ever. Aside from 1985-86, when he was injured and played only 18 games, he never averaged less than 26.9 points per game in 13 years. Who else would you rather have at small forward on your team?

Jerry Krause, the egocentric owner of the Chicago Bulls, had as much to do with Jordan leaving the game as Jordan himself, likely more. Now, the man who walked on air is back and might have to settle for feats of fascination and wizardry while staying closer to the hardwoods. I, for one, will settle for that.

He is Michael Jordan, and he is able to play with the best of them, because he will do what he has to do when he has to do it and rely on the legerdemain that he still carries in his game bag to make up for any lapses that sneak onto the court. He played above it all, remains above it all and should not be derided nor chastised for doing what he loves and has done better than anyone that has gone before him or attempted to run in his shoes today.

Is he able to do it? You gotta be kidding! When you reach a certain age, and can still go to your left, you can do anything. I know.