A phenomenal athlete, Michael Jordan was able to perform and dominate at the highest level even close to retirement. For his last campaign in 2002-03, the full-back allowed himself a huge feat, and not sure that anyone can reproduce it anytime soon… at least not with the same stats.
On a collective level, we cannot say that the last freelance of Michael Jordan in the NBA was a huge success. Back under the colors of the Wizards after a break of two years, MJ won only 74 games (for 90 defeats) between 2001 and 2003, within a team with rather limited intrinsic talent. Unsurprisingly, DC didn’t make the playoffs during that time and the six-time champion said goodbye to an insignificant regular-season game against the Sixers.
If the results were therefore not really there, it is not for lack of having shone on the part of His Airness. Indeed, despite declining percentages (43% average shooting), Jojo remained one of the main offensive players in the squad of the capital. He thus turned to respectively 23 and 20 points per meeting in 2001-02 and 2002-03, and had even allowed himself a rash to 51 units in December 2001 against the Hornets. A real feat, especially when you consider his advanced age at that time.
Full season for a forty-something Michael Jordan
Indeed, we must not forget that the ex-Bull returned to competition when he was already 38 years old. A challenge of magnitude that he nevertheless took up, and with the way since he was regularly titular. Author of 60 games in the first campaign, he decided to hit very hard during his last career season, straddling his 39 and 40 years. Tyronn Lue, who was his teammate at the time, recalls that the person concerned had not missed a single meeting during his final months as a basketball player…
“To play 82 games? That’s a badge of honor. And this man does it at 40 years old on one leg. Like c’mon man. Talk about dedication to the game?”
— The Players’ Tribune (@PlayersTribune) April 1, 2022
At 40, he was playing back-to-backs. He played 82 games. But what’s crazy is that he never stopped training. Coach Doug Collins was flabbergasted. Jordan wanted to play every day, he wanted to train every day and play 82 games at 40. When we came to the league, it was an honor to play 82 games, and this man was doing it at 40 with one leg. Talk about a dedication to the game! There is nothing better than that.
Remember that at the time, load management was anything but common throughout the NBA as it may have been later. As a result, the superstars regularly played more than 75 games per season… but it was much rarer for an athlete of MJ’s age. On the decline physically, he had however maintained a quite respectable form and relied more than ever on his technical palette. And then, how not to mention this spirit of fierce competitor that he displayed during his entire incredible career.
Playing all 82 games of a season, when you are 40 years old? Not a problem at all for Michael Jordan, quite the contrary. The Bulls legend was decidedly one of a kind, and not sure we’ll be seeing that feat again anytime soon.