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MJ is still the NBA’s best player

MJ is still the NBA’s best player
MJ is still the NBA’s best player
Michael Jordan (23) of the Washington Wizards drives around Indiana's Al Harrington in a Dec. 27 matchup at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. Jordan was held to a career-low six points. (Photo by Alan Stewart)

The Dec. 27 exhibition by His Airness, Michael Jordan, against the Indiana Pacers was anything but spectacular. Fans who paid hefty scalping rates were probably pacing the streets around Conseco Fieldhouse, pondering whether to demand their money back after the 108-81 blowout by Indiana: MJ was held to a career-low six points on 2-10 shooting.
The offensive output was Jordan’s lowest since an eight-point effort on March, 22, 1986, against Cleveland. It snapped his NBA-high, 886-consecutive game, double-digit scoring streak.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar had a string of 787-straight games and Karl Malone had 575 at one point. To put this in perspective: Minnesota’s Kevin Garnett owns a streak of 322 straight double-digit games as of Jan. 8. To reach Jordan’s mark, Garnett would have to continue pumping in the points until the middle of the 2008 season!
In the post-game interview, Jordan — looking as GQ as ever in a sleek black outfit — said he was aware of his total but chose not to go back into the blowout for mop-up minutes.
“I’m not here chasing individual accolades,” he said. “If I felt (the streak) was an issue or something that I wanted to chase, I could have easily gone up to (coach Doug Collins) and asked to go back in. That was not important to me. What’s important is to try and get this team to play responsibly and come out and play with the type of energy they need to play with.
“When we’re bad, we’re bad. We had nothing tonight. Nothing. Our jerseys were there, but our bodies were not.”
Despite the poor output, the 38-year-old Jordan still has it.
One game later he lit up Charlotte for 51 points and did it again a couple of nights later against New Jersey’s Nets for 45.
Six points, followed by 51 and then 45. Against his former team last Friday, he netted his 30,000th point. That’s the magic we’re used to, folks, courtesy of Michael Jordan.
And despite the relative lack of help (outside of Richard Hamilton and Christian Laettner), the Wizards are 17-14 and in third in the Atlantic Division of the Eastern Conference and fifth overall. That has befuddled most of the national media experts, who had predicted Washington would be lucky to win 20 all season. It shouldn’t have come as a surprise because Jordan is not only the best player ever in the NBA, but he’s also hands-down the best team player in the history of the league. Jordan was the Bulls. Jordan is the Wizards. Heck, in ‘Space Jam,’ Jordan even won with a team that sported Daffy Duck, Bugs Bunny, and Yosemite Sam on its roster!
If the Wizards make the playoffs this season (I don’t think I’m being overly optimistic here considering the feeble Eastern Conference), there’s no doubt the feat would be the greatest accomplishment of Jordan’s career. Greater than the six championships with the Bulls. More important than the scoring titles. Sensational because it would be done without the guidance of the zen guru Phil Jackson.
The 2001 model of Jordan is like a first car: not flashy, not quick, but it gets the job done. The MJ of old relied on pure athleticism and speed. This one just uses textbook fundamentals like the the pump fake to juke his opponents, who still respect what lies in those Air Jordans.
The tendinitis in his knee is diminishing, allowing him to resume daily weight lifting and regain strength in his legs for better lift on his jumpers and quicker drives to the basket.
The shoulders are a little broader, but the overall, top-notch physique of MJ still remains.
While his legs still look as if they were cut from a Derby thoroughbred, calls to local airports for clearance to take off may not be needed anymore. Nevertheless, one fan’s sign at Conseco said it best: “I still believe he can fly.”
Me, too.