vs. Cleveland (3/28/90)
CHICAGO, Jan. 13 (AP) -- The NBA's greatest player made it official today. Michael Jordan retired from the Chicago Bulls after 13 seasons, six championships and countless soaring dunks. But he left open the slightest possibility that he might return one day. "Mentally, I'm exhausted. I don't feel I have a challenge," Jordan said at a news conference at the United Center, where a bronze statue of him stands outside. "Physically, I feel great. "This is a perfect time for me to walk away from the game. I'm at peace with that." Jordan said he was "99.9 percent" sure he would never return and added, "You can read that for what it's worth. ... I'm very secure in my decision." When pressed why he wouldn't say he was 100 percent certain, Jordan said: "Because it's my 1 percent and not yours." Word of Jordan's retirement broke late Monday, but he had refused to comment until today. After leading the Bulls to their sixth championship in June, Jordan said he would make an announcement on his future only once the NBA lockout ended. The players and owners reached a deal last week to save what's left of the season, and everyone's next question was whether Jordan would return. The Jordan era included five MVP awards, 10 scoring titles, 12 All-Star appearances and many magic moments, from last-second shots to phenomenal scoring outbursts. More important, Jordan had charm and a nice-guy image that earned him multimillion-dollar sponsorship deals and reached even non-sports fans. "I tried to be the best basketball player I could be," said Jordan, who was joined by his wife, Juanita, Bulls chairman Jerry Reinsdorf and NBA commissioner David Stern. "I've had a great time." Jordan alluded to his first retirement in 1993, when he briefly pursued a professional baseball career before returning late in the 1994-95 season. "Well, we do this again, a second time," he said to open the news conference. At one point, the Bulls unveiled a banner in the rafters from Jordan's first retirement. It said "Jordan 1984-1993" - but it will now have to be updated. Asked if he had lost his desire to play, he said: "The desire is always going to be there." But he said he wanted to make sure that the desire was there "not one-fourth of the time I step onto the court, but every time." Jordan, who had a bandage on his right index finger, said he severed a tendon while trying to cut a cigar and would need surgery. But he said he had already decided to retire before the accident. "I'm just going to enjoy life and do things I've never done before," he said. He said he looked forward to being a parent and would "live vicariously through my kids," whether or not they played basketball. "My life will take a change," said Jordan, adding that he also will tend to his many business interests. He makes an estimated $45 million a year from endorsements. Added his wife: "I see Michael doing a lot more carpooling." Reinsdorf called Jordan's announcement "a tough day for basketball fans all over the world." "This is a day I hoped would never come," he said. Countered Stern: "I disagree with Jerry. This is a great day. The greatest basketball player in the history of the game is getting the opportunity to retire with the grace that described his play." Asked after the news conference how the league would survive after the nasty six-month lockout and Jordan's retirement, Stern said: "We're going to be in fine shape." At the White House today, President Clinton said Jordan had "a remarkable set of qualities of mind, body and spirit ... who always expected to do whatever it was he tried to do." "I think it's appropriate that the sports fans around America take a day or two to `Ooh' and `Ahh' and hold their breath again and be glad again." Jordan, 35, said he hoped the Bulls would re-sign teammate Scottie Pippen but added that was only his opinion and that he didn't know what decisions the team would make. "We set high standards around here," he said. Jordan met with a few teammates at his home Monday and told them the thought of playing an abbreviated, 50-game season wasn't enough of a challenge. Now, Jordan goes out as he always wanted - on top. His last-second shot - the last one he ever took - gave the Bulls a victory over the Utah Jazz and their sixth title. "There's a way to go out as an athlete, and that's the way to go out," said B.J. Armstrong, one of about a dozen players working out Tuesday at the Berto Center. Armstrong, who now plays with Charlotte, is a good friend of Jordan's and a teammate on Chicago's first three NBA championship teams. "He went out on top, he made the last shot, he made all the right plays. He's had a fabulous career and everything you could ever ask as an athlete, he's done. He had a chance to leave and this was the chance," Armstrong said. Johnny Bach, an assistant coach on three of the Bulls' championship teams, praised Jordan for not only his skill, but for the joy he brought to the game. "He never looked like he'd been sentenced by a judge to play basketball," Bach said. "I've seen too many athletes not go out at the right time. They stay and struggle and lose some of the dignity they are entitled to."