The back-page columnist for Sports Illustrated was on TV to announce that Michael Jordan was "90 percent committed" to returning to the NBA next season, according to a source "very close" to His Airness.
Jordan's plan, said Reilly: release his ownership stake in the Washington Wizards, take the veteran minimum salary of $1 million along with fellow retiree Charles Barkley and lure a big-time free agent to Washington to pursue a championship.
Jordan has since vehemently denied the announcement. But Reilly's report came a week after Jordan told The Washington Post that he would never rule out the possibility of returning, although he said he was "99.9 percent" sure he would not.
Whew. With all these percentages being thrown around, it's almost tough to forget that Jordan made similar promises of permanent retirement once before in 1993. Promises he broke after he abandoned a frustrating minor league baseball career for three more NBA titles.
Meanwhile, Barkley has said this week that he is mulling a comeback.
So is Jordan really coming back?
He's been spotted working out in the gym six hours a day and, at 38, is still the most competitive athlete to ever lace up a pair of, well, Air Jordans. But he has remained adamant about retaining his partial ownership of the Wizards.
Still, a Jordan renaissance would not be surprising.
And wouldn't it be fun to watch?
Yes. And here's why.
Because nothing would be sweeter than watching Allen Iverson pick Jordan's pocket at the top of the key and convert a lay-in at the other end.
Nothing would be more enjoyable than watching Vince Carter take his elder ex-Tar Heel off the dribble, running Jordan's aged, tired legs ragged and flashing through the paint for a thunderous dunk.
Nothing would be more satisfying than watching Kobe Bryant swish a 3 in Jordan's face, then leap into the air and deflect Jordan's attempt at an answer on the Wizards' very next possession, thereby redeeming himself for the embarrassing lesson Jordan gave him at the 1998 All-Star game.
Because in this nation of ours, there is a strong belief in progress -- the idea that things can and will get better, that subsequent generations will always grow to be superior to their predecessors.
Too bad that belief is a crock.
As nice as it would be to see all of those things happen -- to see Jordan give up a month into his comeback and acknowledge that today's NBA stars are capable of carrying his torch -- it's just not in the cards, baby.
Sure, Jordan would probably return a step or two slower, and every player that once had a Jordan poster on his wall would be eager to show up the greatest to ever play the game. And they'd probably succeed a few times. But not enough.
Jordan dominates. Wizards win championship.
But regardless of the outcome, it would still be a heck of a good show. The NBA has been desperate for fan interest since the day Jordan left in January of 1999. And no wonder. Watching regular season NBA basketball is about as exciting as watching those psychic hotline commercials.
Jordan was always a reason to watch.
Here's to hoping that 0.1 percent is enough.
James Giza can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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