Michael Jordan Week: Remembering The Best Moment Of His Wizards' Tenure


Michael Jordan week rolls on. In this installment, Bullets Forever's site editors remember their favorite times of the MJ era in D.C.

Mike Prada: Take a look at the Eastern Conference in 2001-02, and you'll understand why my favorite moments of the Michael Jordan era came in early February of 2002. For one thing, there were two iconic moments during that stretch -- a game-winner against the Cleveland Cavaliers, followed by another against the Phoenix Suns two weeks later. But to me, the best moment was on February 7, when the Wizards absorbed a strong punch from the Sacramento Kings, then the best team in the league. Jordan didn't have his best game, but Rip Hamilton scored 33 points and Popeye Jones went 8-8 while hounding Chris Webber into a 9-21 shooting night.

At that point, the sky really was the limit. The Wizards were 26-21 and 24-12 since starting the season off slowly. Everyone was healthy, now that Hamilton had returned to the lineup. The East was really down -- how good were the New Jersey Nets and Detroit Pistons anyway? As weird as this whole experiment was, who should the Wizards have been afraid of in the East? Not only were they going to make the playoffs, but damn it, they were going to make some serious noise once they go there. I was on the bandwagon! This was going to be great!

Of course, we now know that Jordan got injured and they lost seven in a row to end the month, knocking themselves out of playoff contention. But for a brief moment, they were a threat. That's my favorite memory.

Jake Whitacre: There were times that provided more instant euphoria (MJ's game-winners against Cleveland and Phoenix, his announcement that he was returning as a player) but nothing captured people's imagination quite like a 38-year-old going off for 96 points in two games against the Hornets and Nets. For two magnificent nights, we got to see the best of Ground Jordan. He wasn't dominating with dunks or threes (he only made one three-pointer in those two games). He showed how it was possible to control a game by making mid-range jumpers and abusing anyone who tried to defend him on the block. On top of the scoring, he also chipped in 17 rebounds, 11 assists, 6 steals and only had 7 turnovers as the Wizards cruised to double-digit wins against two of the Eastern Conference's best. Plus, he sat out most of the fourth quarter against of their blowout win against the Nets so he could ice his knees. It was old man ball at its finest.

Bullet Nation In Exile: Growing up an Orioles fan (and at the ripe old age of ten) I decided that there was really no getting past the Yankees in the post-season. My indicators for success were making the playoffs, putting up a good fight, individual honors for Cal Ripken, Jr. That sort of thing.

I was aware of the NBA, but the Orioles and the Redskins dominated my father's attention, and thusly, mine. I felt a casual and 'proper' sense of loyalty to the local teams, of course.

We had already moved to Arizona when the '96-'97 season rolled around the Bullets were ousted by the eventual champion Chicago Bulls. I didn't know how hard the team had scrapped to make the playoffs. Sports coverage of all DC teams in Phoenix was limited to the box scores in The Arizona Republic. (Have I mentioned how much I love Bullets Forever?)
I had a chance to watch a replay of one of the games at my dad's (now defunct) favorite bar, The Stadium Club, and I was impressed. The Bullets fought, really fought. I was proud of them and believed they had earned a measure of respect from the Jordan-led juggernaut. I was prepared to take a step forward in my fandom (the MLB strike had killed my love of baseball) when the team name changed to the Wizards, of all things, and I went into an indefinite holding pattern. Fickle youth at work, true, but the sports scene in Arizona is fairly sedate, to be kind.

However, when Michael Jordan came out of retirement to ply his trade for the Wizards, I remembered the pride I felt in that playoff series and thought, he remembers, too. Childish nonsense, perhaps.

Did MJ feel he was the x-factor that could put the franchise (that wouldn't roll over) over the top five years later? Well...it was Michael Jordan. Maybe it was simply the closest NBA team to Chapel Hill. Whatever the reason, the anticipation of Michael Jordan coming to play for the Wizards was the high point. It was the most dominant player I'd ever seen or heard of coming to my hometown team because they played him hard enough to make him remember. It felt like a movie. Well, as in most cases, life differed slightly from the movie.

Amin Vafa: I guess my answer for this is twofold because I've got an anecdotal response and a favorite moment. My anecdotal response is that the first NBA game that my wife ever attended was MJ's first home game as a Wizard. She doesn't remember much about the game itself, as it was more of a family bonding trip than it was a historical moment in sports, but I still love/am jealous of the fact that she was there. My own personal favorite moment of the MJ era in DC was when he became the first 40 year old to score 40 points in a game. To this day, he's still the only 40-year old to score 40 in a game. Karl Malone is the only other 39-year old to do it (MJ did it 3 times at that age), and Kareem Abdul Jabaar is the only other to do it at 38 as well (though MJ did sneak a 51-point game there at age 38). There are several 38 and 39 year olds in the NBA now, but I'm fairly sure none of them are going to score 40 points at any point in the next few years. Though I guess Nash might have a shot at that. Might.

Thomas Pruitt: This



The chasedown block he had against the Bulls was absolutely thrilling and even if for just a second, it let you believe that this was the Jordan of old, the guy who could singlehandedly will absolutely any team to victory. It was depressing seeing him get his shot blocked, something that I don't recall ever seeing as a kid, but that recovery was brilliant, especially when you watch it again and realize that everyone else on the team, despite being 10 to 20 years younger than him, had already given up on the play.

jkhan15: On August 1st, 2001, the Wizards traded Laron Profit and a future 1st round pick to the Orlando Magic for Brendan Haywood. Haywood took his share of criticism in Washington, but he ended up playing important role for the Wizards over his career. Picking up a young (at the time) 7-footer on the cheap is simply a wise investment to make. Laron Profit, although a beloved Maryland Terrapin, was a borderline NBAer that was quickly released by the Orlando Magic after arriving. And while that 1st round pick sounds dangerous, it was well-protected. Since Michael Jordan was joining the team, the pick wasn't expected to be very good, and there were lottery protections on it through 2004. The Magic ended up acquiring it in 2005, when it became the 20th selection. Haywood's UNC connections might have played a part in the trade, but MJ gave up minimal value for a decade's worth of starting center. Good front-officing, Mike.

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