Throwback Thursday: Michael Jordan Scores 51 at Age 38

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It was literally just weeks after I started working retail at Athletes World in the spring of 2001 that there were rumors and rumblings of another Michael Jordan return to the NBA.  Working commission sales at a shoe store, the rumor was gold for an ice breaker to spark up a conversation with customers – especially basketball fans.

I distinctly remember many who said that he shouldn’t come back and that leaving the game in 1998 was so poetic that any return couldn’t possibly top it. But as a kid who only knew of the game of basketball during Jordan years, any extra extension of time seeing him on-court was worth it to me no matter what.

Michael Jordan had already accomplished anything and everything an NBA player ever could.  He was the greatest of all time – there was nothing he needed to prove, but he wasn’t done.

After announcing his return and donating his entire 2001-02 salary to September 11 relief efforts, Michael Jordan had fans lined up for tickets hoping for one more glimpse of the game’s greatest player.

Working day in and day out through high school at Athlete’s World, the once echoed questions of “why are Air Jordans colored in white and navy” all of a sudden were laid to rest and I distinctly remember “Wizards” colored Air Jordan 16s and the “Gingers” he wore in his first preseason game getting looks despite their $239.99CA price tag.

As a fan of Michael Jordan, I of course wanted to see him shine and prove every naysayer wrong, but I was realistic with my expectations.  At 38 years of old, MJ was double the age of many of the NBA’s rookies who came straight out of high school.  Father time was not on his side.  But every chance that I got to catch one of his games on TV, I watched in hopes that I would witness history like I had so many times since I was a kid.

Only 9 games into the season, Jordan recorded 44 points against the Utah Jazz. Despite the Wizards losing that game, it was great to watch MJ do damage against a team he had some history with during the second three-peat.  That game was a wake-up call to many – Michael Jordan has still got it.  While it was not quite the double-nickel like return we saw at Madison Square Garden, 44 points for a man less than two years from his 40th birthday was quite an amazing accomplishment.

Struggles hit the team in the first month of the season, but Michael Jordan helped right the ship and lead the Wizards to match a franchise record winning-streak of nine games in December.  Unfortunately, the streak stopped short falling to the Charlotte Hornets in his home state of North Carolina followed by Michael Jordan’s worst performance in more than a decade and a half.  Six points was all the MJ put up while visiting the Indiana Pacers ending a consecutive run of 866 games with double figures in points scored.

After the game, Michael Jordan spoke about his poor performance where he went just 2 for 10 in shooting and didn’t score a single point in the second half in the Wizards’ 27-point loss.

”I’m not here chasing any individual accolades.”

With just a travel day of rest, Michael Jordan took the court in DC and was ready – and he made history again.

Michael Jordan took the first shot of the contest against the Charlotte Hornets when they faced off in DC and put up a franchise record  24 points in the first quarter and 34 points by the end of the first half.  He would go on to cross the 50 point mark for the first time as a Wizard and at the age of 38 ended the contest with 51 points.

Wearing the Air Jordan 17 just shy of two months ahead of its February 2002 release, Michael Jordan once again proved he was the greatest even when we already knew he was.

It was on this day, fifteen years ago, that Michael Jordan would score his last 50+ point game.  At age 38 and more than fifteen years after his first, it was one that helped define his legacy even further as the greatest of all time.

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