By Alex Tronnes June 1, 2013 10:00 PM EST
Nearly four years ago, arguably the greatest basketball player of all time, Michael Jeffrey Jordan, stood at a podium in Springfield Massachusetts and said;
"I don't look at this moment as a defining end to my relationship with the game of basketball. It's simply a continuation of something that I started a long time ago. One day you might look up and see me playing the game at 50. Oh don't laugh. Never say never. Because limits, like fears are often just an illusion. Thank you very much. Looking forward to it."This was Jordan's well publicized closing to his acceptance speech while being enshrined into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. While many laughed off the notion of Jordan coming back and playing at 50, I can't help but to look at the situation a little deeper. If you bring a couple factors into consideration, the move makes more sense now than ever, and as the greatest ever said himself, he's looking forward to it.
No doubt one of the most frustrating sports topics this year was the Derrick Rose injury watch. The star Point Guard and 2011 NBA M.V.P. of the Chicago Bulls faced unrelenting criticism this season while coming back from a devastating knee injury suffered in last season's playoffs. On one hand, people felt that as the face of the franchise, and a young face at that (24), Rose should take as much time as possible to make his return and assure the injury was completely healed. However on the other hand, many fans and pundits believe otherwise, continually saying disparaging things about the young man while he struggled to return to the court.
While it was true that team doctors gave Rose the green light to return near the end of this latest season, he felt the mental side of his game, namely the confidence in his new knee, wasn't close enough to where he could help the team. In this day of speedy recoveries (thanks Adrian Peterson), the pressure to return from injury for players has risen to nearly unfair levels of expectation. The only thing that kept some fans from turning against Rose was the fact that the Bulls were surprisingly winning without him. You would think this would buy the star point-guard more time to heal, but that sentiment ended once the Bulls progressed to the second round of the playoffs and ran into the powerhouse Miami Heat.
Let's get something straight. Rose hadn't played a single game all season. To expect him to lace up his shoes and step on the court, in a potential seven game series against the regular season's best team would be ridiculous. Not to mention the success the Bulls were having to that point represented a comfort level and chemistry the current lineup had built without him. That surely would've been stirred up with Rose's return, for better or for worse. At the end of the day it may end up being the best decision of his young career to wait for next season to return.
But what happens when he does come back? The anticipation to return to his original form is going to be greater than ever. The attention surrounding him and the Bulls at the beginning of the 2013-14 season will garner endless media attention and countless pundits sharing their commentary on his progress back. If only there was something else for the Chicago and National media to cover while Rose gets readjusted...
Enter Michael Jordan stage left.
Now before you blow off this notion as a complete pipe-dream, let's look at some of the indicators this is even possible. First, there's obviously Jordan's comments during his Hall of Fame speech. Claiming we may see him play at 50 years old it only takes a quick peak at a calender to realize Jordan will still be 50 when the 2013-14 season starts at the end of October. When is Jordan's 51st birthday you may be asking? February 17th, or in basketball terms the day after the 2013-14 NBA All-Star weekend comes to a close.
This bold proclamation by Jordan not only aligns with the beginning of this season, but also leaves him with a perfect exit strategy in case 51 year-old Jordan decides playing an entire season may be out of the question. But if he were to join the Bulls, the first half of the season may be all they need from him. The media and cynical fans alike would all but forget about Rose's return and allow him the time to regain his form as Jordan collects the spotlight. This surreal situation could then come to an end during a final farewell ceremony at the All-Star game, maybe even having Jordan participating as a "Legend" in my Slam Dunk Contest format. (See article on my dunk contest brainchild )
The next question we'd have to answer to complete this dream scenario is if the retired icon could even physically keep up in today's NBA. But I'd challenge you to tell him he can't. In perhaps the best piece about Jordan I've ever read, "Michael Jordan Has Not Left the Building ", the author Wright Thompson discusses how Jordan lost 13 pounds in nine days after a vacation. He also believes he won't stop at 248 pounds, instead aiming for 218; his old playing weight.
There's also the story about Jordan playing one-on-one with a player on the Charlotte Bobcats, the team Jordan currently owns and chairs. While it was a mystery for awhile, it was finally revealed that the player was Michael Kidd-Gilchrist , the second overall pick for the Bobcats in the 2012 NBA Draft. That's right, the projected second best player coming out of college couldn't beat Jordan in a pick up game. That either indicates that the Bobcats are continuing their trend of bad play, or that the fiery Jordan still has something left in the tank, even at 50.
This monumental comeback would not just help Chicago in terms of publicity and viewership, but rather the entire league. At a time where the league is fielding more talented teams than in recent memory, the 2013-14 season may have already been in for historic numbers. Add the return of the games greatest player of all time to the mix and David Stern will be giving the fans all they can ask for in his last season as NBA Commissioner.
Now will any of this actually happen? In all likelihood, no. But as passionate fans often are, I'm a dreamer. Whether this dream was brought on by sleep or pipe, I think it would be an incredible event in the history of sports. Derrick Rose gets the pressure taken off him, fans get a story to tell their grand kids, David Stern leaves the league on a high note, and Jordan gets the closure of knowing he backed up his once laughed at proposition. Those who think this isn't possible, I'll leave you with another quote from the g.o.a.t. himself;
"I can accept failure, everyone fails at something. But I can't accept not trying." -MJ
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