Down a few bodies due to injury, the Charlotte Bobcats looked to the owners box for help. And down descended Michael Jordan to scrimmage with his team.Sure, there’s a little bit of a gut there, some slight graying, and if he had trouble flying to the rim in his last season in the NBA at age 40, he certainly won’t do it at age 48. But Bobcats players insist he still has it.
“He’s Mike. He’s been kicking our (rear ends),” Bobcats captain Gerald Wallace told the Charlotte Observer. “He still has it. He doesn’t have his quickness, but he’s a scorer, he’s a shooter… We don’t treat him like a quarterback out here. We hit him.”
That might sound hard to believe, but never lacking in self-confidence, Michael Jordan himself said he’d be able to play competitively for a long time. Remember his Hall of Fame speech? Jordan’s closing words were:
“One day you might look up and see me playing the game at 50. Don’t laugh. Never say never, because limits, like fears, are often just an illusion.”
Over at TrueHoop, Henry Abbot talks to Jordan’s former trainer who dives unnecessarily deep into all the reasons a 48-year old player could never cut it in the NBA. But in a clever trick, he ends the story by asking the trainer whether MJ is subject to those same limitations. His response: “Oh no no no no… I’m talking about everybody else.”
Well, the oldest player ever to play in the NBA is Nat Hickey, two days shy of his 46th birthday. But that was all the way back in 1948. Since then, the only four non-centres ever to play past their 40th birthdays are 41 year-olds Bob Cousy and John Stockton in 1970 and 2003, respectively, and 40-year-olds John Long and Michael Jordan in 1997 and 2003. Unlike those other three though, Jordan averaged 20 points in 37 minutes and played all 82 games in his final year.
There are a ton of reasons to suggest that 48-year-old Jordan wouldn’t cut it in today’s game. The pace and efficiency of offenses are far faster than they were back in 2002, and so Jordan’s not-so-fleet feet would be a huge obstacle. But he has some attributes that would make him an asset.
Jordan still has the jump shot, and presumably still has the high basketball I.Q. and the toughness necessary to play in the NBA. So perhaps he could come off the bench and play the same role injury-plagued Tracy McGrady plays for the Pistons.
McGrady’s minutes vary by matchup, and when he plays, he doesn’t move much without the ball. He stands near the perimeter and either works his way in for a good mid-range look or uses his unparalleled playmaking ability to get teammates open looks. Possessions frequently start with the ball in his hands, but rarely do they finish that way. In 23 minutes he only uses 18 per cent of his team’s possessions while on the floor, and maintains a high assist rate.
Who says Jordan couldn’t do some of those same things in 10-15 minutes per game? With his unparalleled will to succeed, the truth is he probably could. The key would be finding a place for him on defence, where Jordan is best suited hidden in a zone, or defending shorter, stockier forwards.
Of course all this is rendered moot by the fact that Michael Jordan would be forced to sell his majority ownership of the Bobcats, a role he’s now finally taking seriously. And why would he want to spend time training in a gym when he just built a $12.4 million new home with a full golf course?
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