CHICAGO, Jan. 13 -- Michael Jordan's retirement from the Chicago Bulls leaves a legacy that virtually ensures his place among the greatest basketball players of all time. Jordan, who turns 36 on Feb. 17, won five NBA Most Valuable Player awards, set more than 30 league and teamrecords and helped lead Chicago to six NBA championships during a 13-year career that captured the imagination of sports fans around the world. In addition, he earned more than three dozen other awards, including two Olympic gold medals, five NBA Finals MVP awards and a place on the league's 50th anniversary team. He was also a two-time national college player of the year at the University of North Carolina. Following his junior year, Jordan was selected by the Bulls with the third pick overall in the 1984 NBA Draft. As a rookie, he averaged 28.2 points per game but played in just 18 games the following season because of a career-threatening foot and ankle problem. However, he returned a year later to lead the league in scoring at 31.7 points per game, and he never averaged less than 26.9 points per game in a season again. However, there were also difficult moments. His father, James, who was with him in various roles at every stage of his career, was murdered as he slept in his car alongside a South Carolina road in 1993. Several months later, amid reports of extensive off-court gambling activities, Jordan abruptly announced his retirement to pursue what he called his father's dream of a professional baseball career with the Chicago White Sox.
He played one season with the Birmingham Barons of the Class AA Southern League, batting just .202 with three home runs, before giving up baseball midway through the following spring. Jordan returned to the Bulls in time to play in 18 games and lead the team into the second round of the playoffs against the Orlando Magic. A year later, the Bulls won an NBA-record 72 games on their way to the first NBA championship since 1993. Jordan also changed America's perception of black athletes as commercial spokesmen. With confidence and a smile, he hawked everything -- shoes, long-distance service, hamburgers, soft drinks, cereal, hot dogs, batteries, cars, even underwear. His estimated off-court income last year was $47 million. Had he chosen to play this season, Jordan could have made $21.2 million or the prorated portion of $34.8 million for this shortened season, a raise of 105 percent over his 1997-98 salary of $33 million. ---
Copyright 1999 by United Press International. All rights reserved. ---