Better than age: Jordan nets 43

In Wizards' win over Nets, star becomes 1st in NBA to eclipse 40 points at 40

February 22, 2003|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,SUN STAFF

WASHINGTON - Much is made in golf when a duffer manages to shoot an 18-hole round that matches or is below his age, but little is said about a basketball player who can shoot his age, particularly when it is above 35, because the concept is unimaginable.

Well, Michael Jordan has spent his entire basketball life doing the unthinkable, so for him to score 40 or more points just four days after turning 40 shouldn't have been that far out of the realm of possibility.

Jordan added another masterpiece performance to his collection last night, becoming the first NBA player to score 40 points after his 40th birthday, hanging 43 on the New Jersey Nets in the Washington Wizards' 89-86 victory at MCI Center.

Jordan hit 18 of 30 shots from the field, including the winning basket on a runner with his left hand with 34.4 seconds to play, to give the Wizards a badly needed win over the defending Eastern Conference champion Nets. Washington stayed percentage points behind the Orlando Magic for the eighth and final Eastern playoff spot.

The news about Jordan's accomplishment was evident to practically everyone but the man himself.

"You know, it didn't even dawn on me," Jordan said with a sheepish grin. "The first 40-year-old to drop 40? I read it on the stat sheet and I thought it was a misprint. You guys have been saying that I was about to get 40 a month and a half ago, and I thought I already hit it."

Whether he realized it or not, Jordan got his points in a game the Wizards (26-28) practically had to have, what with two straight losses immediately behind them and Washington staring at a home game tomorrow against Dallas, which holds the league's best record, and a road game Tuesday against Indiana, which, until this week, has led the Central Division all season.

"This is a huge win for us, not only because we've been on a bit of a spiral and we needed that to stop, but with us hovering around the seventh or eighth spot, this is a team that we could see in the playoffs," said Wizards guard Jerry Stackhouse, who had 11 points in his second game back from a groin pull. "It does well for our confidence if we happen to see them."

In one stretch spanning the second and third quarter, Jordan scored 16 of Washington's 22 points, but he may have set the tone for the evening in the first quarter, diving on the floor for a loose ball after poking the ball away from New Jersey forward Aaron Williams.

"It set the tone in terms of how bad I wanted to win this game," Jordan said. "If they [his teammates] can't see that, if they can't see my love for the game, then obviously they don't need to be in uniform and they definitely don't need to be on this team."

Said Juan Dixon: "It's like an inspiration when you see him out there making plays like that. I'm amazed at times. That makes me work a little bit harder."

The Nets (37-19) arrived about 45 minutes before tip-off thanks to a snarling traffic jam in Washington, and they came in less than 24 hours after a big home win over Indiana.

But that shouldn't diminish Washington's accomplishment, as the Wizards won their first game over the Nets in four tries this season, by leaning on the oldest man on the floor.

"[Jordan] came out and demonstrated that he is still the best player in the world," said New Jersey point guard Jason Kidd, who finished with 10 points on 2-for-13 shooting. "We let him get going. Once he gets going, it's really hard to do something to get him out of the groove."

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