Michael Jordan week rolls on. In this installment, Bullets Forever's site editors reflect on their least favorite memory of the MJ era in D.C.
Mike Prada: There were many distressing moments, but the one that stands out came in late March of 2003, when the Wizards still had very slim hopes to make the playoffs. To get there, though, they had to beat the Los Angeles Lakers in LA, and the Lakers were finally at full strength and gearing up for their fourth straight title. This game wasn't on national TV, but there was much anticipation because it was likely Jordan's final game against Kobe Bryant.
By now, I had pretty much given up hope that the Jordan comeback would provide any real lasting memories. Too much angst, too much negativity had already seeped to the surface. But I also hadn't forgotten what happened in November, when Jordan scored 25 points off the bench, held Bryant to 8-21 shooting and led the Wizards to a dramatic one-point win over the Lakers. Sure, Bryant had by now taken over the league -- earlier in the year, he had a stretch of scoring at least 30 points in 16 straight games -- but there was still hope that the old dog could teach the young whippersnapper some new tricks in his swan song.
And then, the game happened.
It started off well, at least. Jordan canned his first three jumpers, later hit a fourth while falling away on the left baseline (the kind of shot only Jordan can hit) and stole a lazy pass from Shaquille O'Neal for a transition dunk. Ten points in seven minutes, and the Wizards led, 20-14.
But then, the three-pointers kept raining down. One after another after another, from absurd distances on shots that nobody else would dare attempt, not even Jordan. There really wasn't anything Jordan could do, and in point of fact, there wasn't anything he did do. Still, you could sense that, with every three-pointer, Bryant was sending a message. Your time is up, old man. This is my league now.
I knew that before this game, but in case there was any shred of doubt, Bryant's 55-point performance removed it. That left me stuck with the realization that I rooted for the team with the old man whose time was well past him.
Jake Whitacre: The Wizards were still in the hunt for a playoff spot when Michael Jordan was put on the injured list in late February 2002 to get work done on his injured knee. Had he been able to keep going that year, the drama of being in the playoff hunt would have given the Jordan era a sense of fulfillment that it currently lacks, even if the Wizards were on the wrong side of the playoff bubble.
Bullet Nation In Exile: If my best Michael Jordan moment as a casual fan was 'The Anticipation', then the worst moment was 'The Reality'. My ignorant metric for success was dominance. Either the Wizards came out like the Chicago Bulls-lite or at best it was merely a matter of time before the wheels came off. This was a product of rooting for teams while drinking the preseason kool-aid; 'if everyone stays healthy, the squad meshes just right and we get enough lucky breaks...' That horse never ran.
Even with the rudimentary questions the Arizona Republic staff writers posed, it was obvious the load Jordan would need to carry to make the Wizards a true contender was massive. Once the Wiz came out and looked above-average, I fatalistically figured it was only that aforementioned matter of time before the curse of DC sports caught up. And it did.
Thomas Pruitt: Vince Carter giving up his starting spot in the All Star game. The Jordan era was essentially a nostalgia show, especially in his second year with the team. However, in the back of my then-17 year old mind, I still held out hope that he'd just turn back into the MJ of old, that he'd be able to dominate when he needed to and that he might be able to turn it on if the Wizards were able to squeak into the playoffs. As entertaining as Allen Iverson, TMac, and Carter were that year, though, the fact that someone would have to give up their spot to let Michael Freakin' Jordan start in an all-star game was proof positive that his era truly was over.
jkhan15: The 2002-'03 Wizards roster is just the worst. I feel like this is the epitome of a Michael Jordan project: A few UNC guys, a gambling buddy, the fellow that tried to guard him in the Finals and a hand-picked coach that would serve him.
The top three scoring threats, Jordan, Jerry Stackhouse, and Larry Hughes, all played the same position and had redundant offensive games. Tyronn Lue was the only one on the roster that could possibly be trusted to play point guard. People weren't yet sure if Kwame Brown was a joke.
The worst part was that this team wasn't going anywhere, but they weren't bad enough to get a good draft pick. That meant that they missed out on the Lebron/Wade/Carmelo/Bosh draft of 2003.
Amin Vafa: A blessing and a curse: when MJ suited up in a Wizards uniform and invited Charles Oakley for the ride. Sure it was awesome to have the best player ever voluntarily play for your team. Sure it sold thousands of tickets and put butts in seats. Sure he had 30-, 40-, and 50-point scoring nights. But when your 38-year-old GM decides that he and his 38-year-old best friend are the best offensive and defensive options the team could find, that's probably not a great sign for the success of your team.