Michael Jordan Nearly Made a Comeback at 50 Years Old
Jordan: “One day you might look up and see me playing the game at 50. (laughs) Oh don't laugh. Never say never. Because limits, like fears are often just an illusion.”
Michael Jordan’s career, among many other things, was known for the surprising number of retirements and comebacks.
As viewers of “The Last Dance” remember, Jordan retired from basketball right before the start of the season in 1993, shortly after the murder of his father, and the following year embarked on a short-lived career as a minor league baseball player. Jordan went on to return to the Chicago Bulls in the spring of 1995, going on to win three more championships before retiring again in 1999.
After a stint as a team executive with the Washington Wizards, Jordan announced in 2001 that he was returning to play for the Wizards, and he went on to play the last two years of his NBA career in Washington, retiring again at age 40.
Even though he never played in the NBA again after leaving the Wizards, Jordan did talk about another comeback- on the occasion of his 50th birthday in 2013.
Jordan discussed that moment in an ESPN the Magazine profile, by Wright Thompson, that was published in 2013. It was a reference to the basketball star’s Hall of Fame induction speech, which he had delivered in 2009.
The speech, which was seen at the time as noticeably score-settling and mean-spirited, taking shots at various enemies and others who had slighted him over the years. He even seemed to threaten a comeback at the end.
“Although I'm recognized with this tremendous honor of being in the basketball Hall of Fame - 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,” Jordan said at the end of the speech. “One day you might look up and see me playing the game at 50. (laughs) Oh don't laugh. Never say never. Because limits, like fears are often just an illusion.”
Jordan never returned to play, and it’s not clear exactly how serious Jordan was about actually mounting a comeback. In the Thompson profile, he addressed it, telling Thompson that he still occasionally had thoughts of suiting up again.
"It's consumed me so much," he says. "I'm my own worst enemy. I drove myself so much that I'm still living with some of those drives. I'm living with that. I don't know how to get rid of it. I don't know if I could. And here I am, still connected to the game."
Jordan, who turned 58 this year, remains the owner and team executive of the Charlotte Hornets, while his Nike Jordan Brand is still massively popular even though he last played nearly two decades ago. The “Last Dance” documentary, which Jordan’s production company had a hand in producing, introduced the Jordan mythology to a new generation of NBA fans.
Stephen Silver, a technology writer for The National Interest, is a journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.