Jordan takes final bow

Wizard scores 15 points in 107-87 loss

Philly crowd embraces finale

Their chants get him off bench

'That was very, very respectful, I had a good time,' Jordan says

Michael Jordan Retires

23, 23, 23

April 17, 2003|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,SUN STAFF

PHILADELPHIA - The old axiom goes that the gods seldom answer the cries of mere mortals, and so it was for most of the fourth quarter last night at the First Union Center.

For nearly the entire fourth quarter last night, the crowd chanted "We want Mike," begging for Michael Jordan to make one last appearance in his final NBA game. Jordan sat impassively on the Washington Wizards bench, occasionally looking up at the scoreboard, but making no movement toward the floor.

Finally, Jordan returned at the 2:35 mark and took a final few trots up and down the floor until Eric Snow ran over and fouled Jordan with 1:45 remaining, sending him to the free throw line for one final trip.

He sank both foul shots, then Bobby Simmons took a foul on John Salmons, giving Jordan a chance to exit a thoroughly meaningless 107-87 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers, with 15 points in 28 minutes.

"Obviously the game didn't merit me going back in and maintaining or finding my competitive juices because we were 25 points down," said Jordan. "Obviously they wanted to see me make a couple of baskets and then come off. That was very, very respectful. I had a good time. I would much rather have won the game, but I had a good time."

Jordan did appear to have a good time in the final game of the 1,072 contest that he played in 15 seasons, battling and competing with the best opposition basketball could offer.

"The most important thing out of all of it is I beat him," said Philadelphia guard Allen Iverson, who finished with 35 points. "He's a competitive guy and I know he wanted the win."

The fact that Jordan didn't get the victory last night became the norm for his two years in Washington, where the Wizards went 37-45 each year, a far cry from the six championships in Chicago.

"[The Chicago experience] was totally different," said Jordan, who presumably will return to the Wizards as head of basketball operations. "You had a maturity level that was totally different. You had a winning attitude."

Jordan took a curtain call after about a minute, because that was the only way the game was going to continue. Finally, two minutes and 20 seconds later, after Salmons shot his free throws, the applause finally died down and the game went on. When the horn sounded, Jordan embraced Sixers coach Larry Brown and accepted the game ball from Snow.

"It's tough to play a game when it's not quite as much emphasis on the game besides knowing how Michael Jordan ends his career," said Jordan. "I'm not embarrassed, but I've had better feelings in terms of playing competitive basketball. This is new to me too, playing a game that doesn't have any meaning."

The 76ers needed the win to preserve their hopes for home court advantage in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs, and the Wizards, who, in the words of their coach Doug Collins, "stunk" in Monday's home finale, were looking for postseason tee times.

So there was little chance Jordan would finish his career on a winning note. Already leading by 10 at the half, the Sixers (48-34) torched Washington for 33 third quarter points - a season-high en route to blowing the game open For some, seeing Jordan in the blue and white of Washington at the end of his career, seemed as off-putting as Johnny Unitas finishing up his time in a San Diego Charger uniform.

Indeed, there were more than a few recollections to Jordan's 13 years in Chicago, including his introduction by the public address announcer who ushered him in at Chicago Stadium and at the United Center.

Jordan retires with 32,292 points - third on the all-time scoring list behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Karl Malone - as well as 12,192 field goals, 6,672 rebounds, 5,633 assists, 2,514 steals and 581 three-pointers.

In contrast to the rather sparse farewell the Wizards organization laid out for Jordan in Monday's home finale, the Sixers spared no expense, presenting him with a golf cart driven by Hall of Famers Julius Erving and Moses Malone.

Jordan, who did not address the MCI Center crowd Monday before or after the 93-79 loss to the New York Knicks, took a microphone and saluted the First Union Center crowd.

"Obviously you guys see the talent you have here in Philly and the talent in the league," said Jordan. "I feel as comfortable as Dr. J felt when I came into the league, when he was leaving the game that the league is in great hands. Thanks for supporting the game, Thanks for supporting me.

Rhythm and blues singer Teddy Pendergrass delivered a stirring rendition of the national anthem, the first time he had performed here in six years. Then came the player introductions, during which the Sixers trotted out Ray Clay, the former public address announcer in Chicago, who brought out just one man, just the way he always did.

"From North Carolina, at guard, 6'6, Michael Jordan."

At that moment, the sound of Philadelphia, often given to boos and catcalls for the opposition turned instead to deafening applause and a standing ovation that went on for 2 1/2 minutes.

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