Another Michael Jordan Comeback?

Michael Jordan Comeback?This is a recent post I wrote for Slam Dunk Central:

Apparently, Brett Favre and Michael Jordan are still competing over who gets their picture in the dictionary next to the word “comeback.”

A rumor is going around that MJ is aiming for an NBA comeback by the time he turns 50 in two years. He would take the mantle of oldest NBA player in history away from Kevin Willis, who played five games for Dallas in 2006-07 at age 44.

At first glance, this just seems ridiculous. It would be a magnified repeat of Jordan’s not-so-pretty stunt with the Wizards from 2001-03. For those of you who don’t remember (or choose not to remember), Jordan struggled to carry a mediocre team to a 37-45 record two years in a row. Although he posted a good stat line - 20 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 3.8 apg, 1.5 spg, .5 bpg – it just wasn’t the same watching the greatest player of all time miss the playoffs (something he’d never done before) two years in a row. And he realized that it just wasn’t the same this time, retiring (for the third and, we thought, final time) after season #2.

But at age 50, could he even come close to matching that performance? It will have been exactly a decade since he last played on an NBA team. And the game has only gotten bigger and faster since then. Would he even have a chance?

Wait a second. This is Michael Jordan we are talking about. Of course he’d have a chance.

He turned 40 years old during the 2002-03 season, becoming the first 40-year-old to average 20 points a game. He didn’t miss a single game in his final season. He was also the oldest player to score 50 points in a game (at age 39) and 40 points in a game (at age 40). And according to Paul Silas, coach of the Jordan-owned Charlotte Bobcats, Michael could still score 20 points a game if he returned. MJ has been practicing with the team, and although his athleticism has taken a hit, he still has the veteran skills and knowledge of the game to be competitive.

And, as Bill Simmons of ESPN pointed out in an article a couple weeks ago, NBA players are starting to last longer because of advances in medicine and training. And MJ has less miles on his NBA odometer than some of the top current players. Here are some comparisons to today’s older players:

Celtics have revived Shaq

Shaq has 134 games, 901 minutes, and 100+ lbs on MJ, but he's still making an impact with the Celtics.

Michael Jordan – 48 yrs old on February 17th, 1072 games, 41,011 minutes

Shaq – 39 on March 6th, 1206 games, 41,912 minutes

Jason Kidd – 38 on March 23rd, 1240 games, 45,822 minutes

Steve Nash – 37 yrs old, 1064 games, 33,291 minutes

Ray Allen – 35 yrs old, 1074 games, 39,786 minutes

Kobe Bryant – 32 yrs old, 1075 games, 39,192 minutes

All of these players excelled at one thing or another, and as they got older and production started to drop, they still dominated the league in that one thing they were best at. Shaq is still a terror in the middle. Kidd and Nash still rack up assists. Allen is still the biggest 3-point threat in the league, and Kobe can still take over a game when it matters the most. When he was playing, Jordan could score like no one else. Why couldn’t he come in and be a legitimate scoring option on a decent team? Even if he could only add 10 points a game, wouldn’t at least a dozen NBA teams love to have him?

Not to mention it would be a great marketing tactic, giving the next generation a chance to see the great MJ in action. The most likely team for him to join would be the Charlotte Bobcats. Coming in at 28th in the league in points per game, they could use the extra offense. As the owner, he technically isn’t allowed to play for them unless he sells his shares of the team, but he is strongly connected and would be welcomed as a player. He also played his college ball at North Carolina, yet another reason Charlotte is a good fit for him.

Of course, to make this a successful comeback, Jordan will have to know his limits and accept whatever role he can fill the best. But even though it’s nothing more than a rumor now, get ready, because this return is a definite possibility.

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