Michael's Gracious Exit

Money and sports is an often sour mixture. Pro sports have their outsize profits and salaries, which regularly obscure the athletic contests themselves. Amateur sport is seeing its pinnacle become tarnished as the International Olympics Committee bribery scandal spreads. But then there's that rare combination of talent, sportsmanship, and character that seems to eclipse the money mountain. Michael Jordan is that kind of figure. Without question, he pushed the National Basketball Association's pay scale to astronomical heights - precipitating, to a significant degree, the greedfest that almost swallowed the league's current season. Yet no one ever doubted that for this star the game, the competitive challenge, remained paramount. His demeanor on the court, though unfailingly expressive, never sunk to surliness or bravado. Jordan's game, for all its extraordinary flare, had a calm, businesslike quality to it. He simply did what he could do better than anyone else. Yet Jordan wasn't a one-man show. His passing was exceptional, and his drive lifted teammates' performance along with his own. What may most stick in fans' minds is Jordan's ability to rise (literally and figuratively) to any challenge. A three-pointer or jump shot with seconds left? Give it to Michael. A strike-shortened season will offer fewer such challenges. So perhaps retirement was appropriate. May "His Airness" find good uses for his talent and fame off the court. (For one thing, he says, he'll spend a lot more time with his children.) And may his example on the court, both technique and behavior, continue to inspire.

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