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Second Retirement for Jordan

January 13, 1999

CHICAGO (AP) _ Michael Jordan’s first retirement didn’t last. His second, more than five years later, just might.

``It’s totally different circumstances. He’s a different age, he’s won six titles instead of three,″ said guard Steve Kerr, Jordan’s Chicago Bulls teammate and now a free agent.

Last time, as Jordan grieved for his murdered father, he said he’d had enough of the NBA grind, needed more time with his family and new challenges. But on that stunning October day in 1993, a 30-year-old Jordan didn’t rule out a return to basketball.

After a short-lived baseball career, he came back. Did he ever, adding three more NBA titles and re-establishing himself as the game’s greatest player.

Now he’s ready to retire again. And as he turns 36 next month, this time, it will probably be for good. The Bulls called a news conference at the United Center, the building where Jordan held a glitzy retirement party in November 1994, the building where he so often led the team to victory.

Now it’s the place where, according to a league source, Jordan planned to announce his retirement after 13 seasons with the Bulls.

``I’m not going to get into my soliloquy about Michael Jordan until I hear it’s official,″ Kerr said Tuesday after working on his jump shot at the Berto Center in suburban Deerfield.

``I’m not going to be the fool who talks about it before it all happens.″

Around the league and throughout the city that worships him, Jordan’s impending retirement didn’t come as a surprise.

But most acknowledged that neither the Bulls nor the NBA would be the same without him, especially during this lockout-shortened season.

``Losers! Losers! Losers!″ 32-year-old Derrick Watt said as he left Jordan’s downtown restaurant on another cold winter’s day. ``Without Michael, they’ll be in the basement of their division.″

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, the Chicago Tribune reported.

Kerr and free-agent center Luc Longley said Tuesday they hadn’t heard from Jordan or the team about the retirement, and that’s why they wanted to get their information directly from the source.

``He told us after the season that he didn’t want to come back. But at that point, I don’t know if any of us wanted to come back,″ Kerr said.

``We were kind of tired. But after a summer of rest _ a summer and a fall and a winter of rest _ it’s easy to be rejuvenated, so everybody knew he had that option to come back. ″

But now Jordan can go out as he always wanted _ on top. His last-second shot _ the last one he might ever take _ beat Utah in Game 6 last June and gave the Bulls 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.

``He’s doing it his way. There’s a part of me that is sad, but a part of me that is happy to see him go out on top.″

He would also be going out as a five-time league MVP, 10-time league scoring champion and the No. 1 per-game scorer in NBA history.

General manager Jerry Krause, who openly feuded with Jordan, had no comment as he pulled his car into the snowy parking lot at the practice center.

Coach-in-waiting Tim Floyd wasn’t saying much, either. He rolled his car window down and said: ``I don’t think it would be appropriate for me to say anything at this point.″

In case everyone has forgotten, for a long time Jordan loudly proclaimed he had no intention of playing for any coach but Phil Jackson, who left the team after June’s championship and has declined several invitations to return.

Jordan’s Dream Team teammate and TV commercial sidekick Larry Bird, who retired and then returned as coach of the Indiana Pacers, jokingly suggested the NBA hadn’t seen the last of His Airness:

``There comes a time in every player’s career that they have to make that decision, and he feels it’s his time. We want to wish he and his family well and we look forward to seeing him sometime in late March when he makes his return again in Market Square Arena.″

That’s where Jordan made his comeback nearly four years ago.

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.″

Appalachian State coach Buzz Peterson called his former North Carolina roommate and put the question to him directly.

``What’s going on? I’ve got 25 pink slip phone messages here in front of me,″ Peterson said. ``He just laughed and said everything’s coming out now and everything’s being said.″

Peterson said the Bulls’ coaching change didn’t have anything to do with Jordan’s decision, but family considerations did.

``He’s just run out of things to prove and he loves those kids. Whenever I talk to him, he just can’t stop talking about Marcus and Jeffrey and Jasmine,″ Peterson said.

``Marcus and Jeffrey are playing basketball now and he could tell you how many points they scored and how many assists they had and what the final score was of every one of their games.″

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