After two retirements and a two-year hiatus from the NBA, Michael Jordan made a shocking return to basketball in 2001 when he played for the Washington Wizards for his final two seasons.
During his last hurrah in ’03, the NBA gave him VIP treatment that extended into All-Star weekend. For his last appearance, the league wanted to push him into the starting lineup and, hopefully, see him out with a win.
After a lot of resistance, Jordan did end up being a starter, as Vince Carter told in a story on ESPN.
« So 2003 in Atlanta. It was MJ’s last All-Star game. The NBA concurred ‘hey, it’s probably a good idea that MJ start in his last game.’ That was a no-brainer for me, but you know they have to go through all the protocols.
I remember walking in All-Star weekend with all the festivities and MJ’s in the back doing what MJ does. And I walk in and say ‘hey MJ, it’s your last All-Star game and everything, you’re gonna start. He said ‘no, you earned it.’ I didn’t wanna get blackballed so I get back in, get dressed, and I’m like ‘no way.’ So I go shoot and that conversation right there is where I’m telling him and he’s telling me ‘you earned it.’ I said ‘MJ look here. I am going to walk to the back of the locker room during starting lineups because you’re going to start, I’m not about to get blackballed.’
So I start walking to the back and they start calling them out and boom he walks out, starting lineup, everything good. »
But it was Kobe Bean Bryant who « ruined » MJ’s final All-Star game. MJ’s team had a 2-point lead late into the game before Kobe (amid calls to stop the contest) took it upon himself to take over and steal the show.
Of course, he ended up with the win in the end.
« We tried our best, we’re yelling to stop the game. It was like 7 seconds I think. Stop the game, stop the game. Well, rest in peace to Kobe Bryant — being Kobe Bryant, he wanted to win the game and steal the show. So he gets the ball out of the timeout, he gets fouled by Jermaine O’Neal, hits both free-throws, and we lose. We end up loosing that game. »
Kobe was always known as a fierce competitor, and that Mamba Mentality never took a night off, not even for Michael Jeffrey Jordan.
Of course, Michael would retire later that year, and go down as the NBA’s all-time greatest. Kobe would go on to win two more titles as he, himself, would mark his place in league history.
All-in-all, it’s fitting that Kobe was the one to give Jordan an L for his last All-Star game. And it’s likely Jordan would have it no other way.