February 15, 2011

Can Jordan Still Be Like Mike?

A new ESPN poll finds that it depends where you ask.

David Goldenberg

Almost a decade after he retired for the third time, Michael Jordan inspired some people to dream of another comeback last week, when the Charlotte Bobcats owner participated—and played well—in a full-court scrimmage with his team. Of course, holding his own in an exhibition game for a few minutes against his employees probably is not the best indicator of NBA readiness, but Bobcats coach (and, again, Jordan employee) Paul Silas insisted that the old man still has it. "If he got in shape, he would probably average 20 because he can get the shot off, he can make them, and he has just an uncanny knowledge of the game," Silas told "The Waddle & Silvy Show."

So ESPN posed this question to sports fans around the world, in an online poll: "Could 48-year old Michael Jordan still contribute to an NBA team off the bench?" Surprisingly, a slim majority of those who responded think he could—52% of the 110,000-plus voters said yes. Breaking down the data state by state, though, it's clear that many voters are influenced less by their feelings about Jordan the middle-aged athlete and more by their feelings about Jordan's past performances.

The states most confident of a successful Jordan comeback include Iowa and Illinois, both states thick with Bulls fans and their memories of Jordan's awe-inspiring six titles. Alabama, another confident state, was Jordan's home during his first retirement, when he played baseball for the Birmingham Barons before returning to glory and more titles with the Bulls.

The majority of the states where most voters think Jordan couldn't make another successful comeback are in the Mountain and Pacific Time zones. Perhaps Western Conference fans there simply don't want to see Jordan beat them again, as he did to win six titles against teams in Salt Lake City and points farther west.

Jordan seems to have had similar effects on the psyche of fans from Bulls' Eastern Conference rivals Detroit Pistons and Boston Celtics, as voters in both Michigan and Massachusetts are far less likely than those in other states to think (hope?) that Jordan could play today. Perhaps the only polled region with some true insight into how an older Jordan would fare is Washington, DC. Fans of the Wizards watched Jordan struggle to keep up with the speed of the game (and accept a less-than-dominant role) when his last comeback attempt ended in 2003. In Washington, a slim majority of 51% think his days as a contributor are over.

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Article by David Goldenberg

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