DEERFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Michael Jordan stunned the NBA by announcing his retirement, saying he had lost the desire to play basketball months after his father, James Jordan, was murdered. Jordan also was dogged for months over reports of excessive gambling. Jordan said he thought about retiring after leading the Chicago Bulls to a third straight title earlier in the year. Instead, he announces he will play baseball in the Chicago White Sox organization while leaving the door open to a future return. The Associated Press is republishing verbatim the story of Jordan’s announcement on Oct. 6, 1993.
By JIM LITKE
AP Sports Writer
DEERFIELD, Ill. — Saying he had reached the pinnacle of his career and had nothing left to accomplish, Michael Jordan retired from basketball today — but maybe not forever.
“I have achieved a lot in my short career. I just feel I don’t have anything else to prove,” Jordan said in walking away from the game after winning seven scoring titles and leading the Chicago Bulls to three straight championships.
The 30-year-old superstar — basketball’s greatest player and perhaps the world’s most recognizable athlete — said “it was time to move forward, away from games,” but did not rule out a comeback.
“I’m not making this a ‘never’ issue. I’m saying I don’t have the drive right now,” Jordan said.
“Five years down the line, if the urge comes back, if the Bulls will have me and (NBA commissioner) David Stern lets me back in the league, I may come back. But that’s a decision I don’t have to make at this moment,” Jordan said.
In a news conference at the Bulls’ training center, Jordan said the murder of his father, James, in July made him realize that “it can be taken away from you at any time.”
“I guess the biggest gratification — I am a very positive person — I can get out of my father not being here today is that he saw my last basketball game. It is something that we have talked about a lot,” Jordan said.
His father had urged him to retire after the Bulls won their first championship, Jordan said, but “I felt I still had a lot to prove.”
Jordan said he was leaning toward retiring immediately after the Bulls won their third championship, but wanted to wait until just before the start of this season “to see if my heart would change.”
He said he discovered “the desire was not there.”
The startling announcement leaves the Bulls without their scoring champion, the NBA without its glitziest attraction and millions of fans without the hero who redefined standards of excellence.
“I know kids are going to be disappointed, but I hope they can now understand that Michael Jordan was a basketball player who also was a man and had a family and did other things,” he said.
Jordan said he was secure with his decision to walk away at the top of his game.
“I have always stressed … that when I lose the sense of motivation and the sense to prove something as a basketball player, it’s time to leave,” he said. “I never wanted to leave when my skills started to diminish, because that’s when I’d feel the foot in my back, pushing me out the door. My skills are still good. I am not on the downside of my career. … This is the perfect time for me to walk away.”
Several of his teammates, including Scottie Pippen, Bill Cartwright and John Paxson, stood behind him as he sat with his wife, Juanita, and Bulls’ owner Jerry Reinsdorf, at the news conference.
Reinsdorf called it “a bittersweet day,” but said he was convinced that Jordan was doing the right thing.
“He’s living the American dream,” Reinsdorf said. “The American dream is to reach a point in your life where you don’t have to do anything you … don’t want to do.”
Jordan’s departure came during a year of unprecedented personal success and tragedy. He led the Bulls to a third NBA championship, but also suffered the loss of his father, who was shot and killed in North Carolina. Jordan, whose salary and endorsements bring him more than $50 million a year, also was dogged by reports of excessive gambling.
Jordan said the death of James Jordan was not the overriding reason he was quitting.
“I probably would have done this even if he was here with me,” he said.
Jordan had harsh words for the news media, saying it had intruded on his personal life.
“When I stepped onto the basketball court, there wasn’t anything left for me to prove. That’s one of the reasons you guys (the press) stepped into my private life,” he said, taking a testy and impatient tone with reporters.
“You don’t have sympathy for normal people sometimes,″ he said. “… Sometimes you’ve gotten on my nerves.”
Reinsdorf said Jordan “was held up to unbelievable standards. He was asked to do things no one else was asked to do.”
Jordan said he chose to make the announcement today because he “wanted to get it over and done with before training camp starts, so that they can start on their own two feet.”
The Bulls open camp Thursday.
His departure follows the retirement last year of Larry Bird and Magic Johnson, dealing the NBA an incalculable loss. With his slithering drives through the lane, airborne slams and radar 3-point shots — always with the trademark tongue sticking out of his mouth — Jordan played the game like no other.
Asked about the effect on basketball of losing Bird, Johnson and Jordan in such a short span, Stern said, “We’re still planning to open the season on Nov. 5.”
Johnson called Jordan’s retirement “a big, big loss.”
“He probably will come back in one year to show everyone he’s still the king,” Johnson said in Switzerland, where he was playing an exhibition game. “I think Michael probably just wants to be left alone now. He is tired of being under the microscope and just needs a little time off to be with his family.”
“No one was ever better than him,” added Bird.
NBA deputy commissioner Russell Granik said Jordan telephoned Stern on Tuesday to say he was leaving. On Tuesday night, Jordan threw out the ceremonial pitch at Comiskey Park for the opening game of the American League playoffs between the Chicago White Sox and the Toronto Blue Jays.
By the seventh inning, word of Jordan’s retirement had spread. Flanked by security guards, Jordan left the stadium. The White Sox would lose 7-3, but in a city where Jordan is the undisputed king of sports, the baseball setback was tame stuff.
Fueled by his spectacular play and endorsements for products ranging from sneakers to hot dogs, Jordan’s fame extended far beyond the borders of Chicago and the NBA.
At last year’s Barcelona Olympics, he was treated more as a potentate or rock star than a basketball player. In China, he is the most celebrated figure apart from Mao Tse-tung – this in a country where basketball is not even the most popular sport.
“In my mind, he’s the greatest player who ever played the game, and the most special athlete I’ve had the pleasure of watching,” said Tom Wilson, president of the Detroit Pistons.
AP Corporate Archives contributed to this report.
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