JORDAN FOLLIES 

Why come back, Michael? Why?

Remember when we all wanted to "be like Mike"? At least all of us sports fans? Has there been a higher standard of achievement among professional athletes than that of the great Michael Jordan? Six NBA championships, 10 scoring titles, five MVPs. The guy had a statue of himself placed outside Chicago's United Center after he retired the first time in 1993. He comes back to the delight of millions -- and his last shot as a professional wins the 1998 NBA title. Hollywood scripts with such an ending would be tossed in a wastebasket for being over-the-top. Ah, but dare we not overlook that dastardly element of human greatness, hubris. All of the above appears to be not quite enough for Mr. Jordan. Having dabbled in ownership with the woeful Washington Wizards, Jordan has now come out of retirement -- again -- to try and add a layer of achievements and memories to an already top-heavy legend. The fact that he will be joining one of the most god-awful teams in recent memory -- his very own Wizards -- is, to Jordan, a minor obstacle. I've got some advice for MJ. Grab a sports almanac, turn to the biography section, and look up the following: Joe Namath, Los Angeles Rams; Johnny Unitas, San Diego Chargers; Willie Mays, New York Mets. Legends all. And every one of them embarrassments in the twilight of their careers, spent in uniforms with which no sports fan with a heart wishes to associate them. That's what's on the horizon, MJ. The only aspect of this return more sordid than the act itself was the manner in which Jordan contrived to drag, postpone, prolong, delay, and withhold the big announcement. Particularly in today's news climate, where sports have taken a long overdue backseat to life on earth, Jordan's continued insistence that a "big announcement" would come soon . . . was tasteless. It lent an overblown, rather disgusting degree of importance to the return of an over-the-hill superstar to a game that desperately needs to cut the umbilical cord. You want to play again, Mike? OK, come on back. There are 28 teams that were waiting for an extra few sold-out dates -- not to mention one last chance to light up the great Jordan for the home folks. But don't fall under the impression this is a second coming of any sort. Jordan claims to be returning "for the love of the game." (Considering his stature, one would think Jordan might be able to provide a more creative reason than the same cliche third-string shooting guards give for hanging around a few years to play in Greece or Italy.) What he fails to recognize -- or perhaps simply ignores -- is the fact that his return is the last thing the game he loves so much needs. Teams, including our Grizzlies, are shaping their marketing efforts around his return, instead of focusing on the eminently talented new blood in the NBA. Bryant, Iverson, Carter, Duncan, Webber, Garnett -- they all take a backseat. Not to mention the time these organizations might spend promoting their own teams. Who was the entertainer who so eloquently argued a key to success is to "leave them wanting more"? That's the guy I want to see. Michael Jordan, whether he knows it or not, had pulled off this miracle of the spotlight in a fashion few in sport will ever approximate. What a shame his ego has proved that much larger than his legend.

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