On January 13th of 1999, Michael Jordan announced his second retirement from the NBA. During that announcement, he said he was 99.9 percent sure he would not return. One year later, he became part owner of the Washington Wizards. Then in September of 2001, he came out retirement and played for the Wizards.
1999 RETIREMENT TRANSCRIPT VIA NBA.COM
Well, we do this again for the second time. I was telling my wife [Juanita], coming out I felt like I was getting married. The first and foremost thing that I want to do, and I think everybody here and, today is not just a day for Michael Jordan. I think there is a lot of other serious things happening in the world. I think that I wanted to take time out to, from my family and hopefully from you guys, to give condolences to the officer (John C. Knight, Chicago police officer who was shot on Saturday, January 9) that was killed in action who so happened to have his funeral presentation today at the same time, which is kind of unfortunate. I think that puts a lot of things in perspective in terms of what life is really about. My responsibilities have been to play the game of basketball and relieve some of the pressures of everyday life for people who work from nine to five. I’ve tried to do that to the best of my abilities. I think what’s happening with his family and the unfortunate circumstances that have happened, I would like to pass on my condolences from my family to his and I am pretty sure that you guys mean the same thing.
I am here to announce my retirement from the game of basketball. It won’t be another announcement to baseball or anything to that nature. I think everyone has their own reasons. There has been a lot of speculation in terms of why. I am pretty sure I will get to that point once you guys get the opportunity to ask questions. I want to say thank you to both of the gentleman here, Mr. Stern and Mr. Reinsdorf, for presenting me with the opportunity to play the game of basketball, and certainly to give me an opportunity to come to Chicago and meet my beautiful wife and build a family here. My family in North Carolina and a lot of my friends who have come up to support this day and support me, who’ve always supported me once I stepped out on the basketball court and even when I didn’t play on the basketball court. I want to say thanks to both of those gentleman and to all the fans in Chicago for allowing me to come here and they have adapted me to be one of theirs and in response I tried to step on the basketball court and get rid of the gangster mentality that Chicago was known for for a long time. I think successfully, myself and my teammates and the whole organization has made an effort to change the perspective about Chicago. We are hopefully going to be known as a championship city and I hope it continues on even when Michael Jordan is not in uniform.
I will support the Chicago Bulls. I think the game itself is a lot bigger than Michael Jordan. I’ve been given an opportunity by people before me, to name a few, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Dr. J, Elgin Baylor, Jerry West. These guys played the game way before Michael Jordan was born and Michael Jordan came on the heels of all that activity and what Mr. Stern and what he has done for the league, gave me an opportunity to play the game of basketball. I played it to the best that I could play it, I tried to enhance the game itself, I’ve tried to be the best basketball player that I could be. Next thing you know, here we are as a league. I think the league is going to continue on, although we’ve had our troubles over the last six months, I think that’s a reality check for all of us. That it is a business, yet it is still fun. It is still a game and the game will continue on.
Once again, I have had a great time and can’t say enough for the people who’ve supported me and my life will take a change. People say, ‘Well Michael Jordan doesn’t have any challenges away from the game of basketball.’ I dispute that. Being a parent is very challenging. If you have kids you know that and I welcome that challenge. I look forward to it. I will live vicariously through my kids if they play the game of basketball or if they don’t. I will support that and my wife and I will do the same. We will do what we can as parents to make sure that happens and that’s the challenge that I have in front of me. I look forward to that.
Unfortunately, my mother and my family, my brothers and sisters could not be here, but as you see me you see them — my father, my mother and certainly my brothers and sisters. They are here through me and they want to, along with myself, want to say thank you for taking me in and showing me the respect and certainly the gratitude that you’ve shown me over the years that I’ve been here. I will be in Chicago for my career and hopefully for the rest of my life — my wife won’t allow me to move nowhere else. So I will be in Chicago and I will support Chicago teams.
That’s all I really, truly had to say. I thought about saying just two words, ‘I’m gone’, but I figured I owe the fans and certainly the media a little bit more than that. So that’s one of my reasons for being here.
Q: When did you decide to retire and why did you wait until today to announce it?
Jordan: (Microphone was out) Maybe I am not supposed to answer that question. Actually, I talked to Jerry last year once the season ended and I told Jerry at that time, mentally, I was a little exhausted. I didn’t know if I would play next year. I wanted to put him on awareness so that he could possibly prepare going into next season. Jerry, once we had our conversation, wanted me to take time as I did in 1993, to make sure that it was the right decision because it was going to be the final decision. He encouraged me to wait until the time came to where I made that announcement. In the middle of that process, with the lockout, I wanted to support the players. I wanted to be there and voice some of the opinions of some of the players and give my input, because I felt that as an obligation to the players of tomorrow, just as the players before me stood up and supported the Collective Bargaining Agreement for me to utilize in my negotiations, I felt obligated to do the same.
So when the lockout ended, I felt appropriate to, at this particular time, to announce my retirement so that it could give the Bulls an opportunity to do what they have to do in terms of getting their future on and utilizing the financial gains of my contract being renounced or terminated, to where they can rebuild or build another structure amongst the team. That is one of the reasons I waited until this point.
Q: Can you compare the reasons why you retired this time to the reasons why you retired in 1993?
Jordan: Well, it’s very similar. Mentally, I am exhausted. I don’t feel I have the challenge. Physically, I feel great. The last time in 1993 I had other agendas. I felt that I wanted to play baseball and I felt that at my age it was a good opportunity and time to do it. With the death of my father, I was basically trying to deal with that. This time, I am at peace with a lot of those things. I know from a career standpoint I have accomplished everything that I could as an individual. Right now I don’t have the mental challenges that I have had in the past to proceed as a basketball player.
Sure I am pretty sure that a lot of people will say, ‘Well there is a lot of different challenges that could evolve.’ For me, to start something and then in the middle of the season lose interest and then lose motivation, it’s unfair to the people that I am working with and working for and to the fans. So, I elevated that opportunity by saying that this is a perfect time for me to walk away from the game and I am at peace with that. Unfortunately we had some problems with the Collective Bargaining Agreement, but I think those situations are solved and we have to get past that.
Q: Did the differences between you and management have any influence in your decision? Would you have not retired if Phil Jackson had agreed to continue coaching Chicago?
Jordan: That’s a big if. You know, I retired the first time when Phil Jackson was the coach and I think that even with Phil [being] the coach I would have had a tough time, mentally finding the challenge for myself. Although, he can somehow present challenges for me. I don’t know if he could have presented a challenge for me to continue on to this season. Even though midway in the season I wanted to continue to play a couple of more years, but at the end of the season I was mentally drained and tired. So I can’t say that he would have restored that. In terms of my disagreements with the management, about some of the decision making, that’s always been my opinions. It hasn’t been ultimatums or twisting the arms. The good thing about all of it is, the good thing about any team, is that you may have disagreements but that doesn’t mean that the focus is not there in terms of trying to achieve what you are trying to achieve. Management may take a different approach in terms of rebuilding or whatever, and that’s their prerogative. I would never say that that’s wrong. That’s their prerogative to make that statement or make that notion to do that. I support them, even though I am not playing. A matter of different opinions I don’t think would have changed my mind in terms of my retirement at this stage of going into the next year.
Q: How difficult was this decision?
Jordan: It was difficult because you are giving up something that you truly, truly love. My love for the game is very strong, and it’s hard to give up that love. For the sake of the mental challenges that Michael Jordan needs to drive himself to be the best basketball player he can be, I don’t want to fool myself going into the situation knowing that I am not 100 percent challenged mentally. Physically, I feel fine, but then the unfortunate thing with my finger, but other than that I am fine. Mentally, I just felt like I didn’t have the challenges in front of me.
Q: What do you see next for the Bulls and how do you see them competing this year?
Jordan: Well, I think it presents a challenge for them. To live up to the standards that we brought here to the city of Chicago. I think it’s part of the challenge for Jerry Krause, Jerry Reinsdorf and Tim Floyd to maintain that. I think they welcome that challenge, and that’s good. It depends on how they take that in action. I don’t know what decisions they are going to make in terms of free agency or, I would like to see them keep Scottie Pippen around and give him the just due that he is very deserving, but that’s just my opinion once again.
We set high standards here and the pressure is on them to maintain that. Now, how long will that last? Will it be next year? I think that’s hard for me to say, but I am pretty sure that they have to live with that as they move further. I am pretty sure that they want that, they want to live up to the standards and that’s a part of the challenge and I support that.
Q: Was the second three-peat more precious than the first three-peat? And are you leaving with absolutely no more desire to play?
Jordan: The second three-peat, by far, is the one that you have to cherish the most because it’s the hardest. I felt it was the hardest to achieve, especially when the team was dismantled to some degree and then brought back with different talent. Players from programs that never really experienced the expectations that we had experience here in Chicago. I felt it was harder and we overcame that and we won three in a row. I would say that’s better than the first three.
Which team is better? I would think the first team is better than the second team that won three in a row, but it was definitely harder to win the second three in a row than the first three. In terms of desire, desire is always going to be there. If the desire is not there, the love was never there. I have to make a judgment in terms of the desire all the times that I step onto the basketball court, not one-fourth of the time, but every time I step on the basketball court. I can’t honestly say that’s going to be there every time I step into this building for 82 games or 100 and something games that we play in the course of a year. I’ve always been sure about that, and now I am unsure about that. So, with that doubt I chose to make my own decisions about retirement.
Q: Is it a true story, that one reason why you came back is that your son Jeffrey told you that he thought Shaquille O’Neal was the greatest basketball player?
Jordan: No, that’s not true, but my middle kid loved Dennis Rodman and he wants red hair. I mean, I don’t think that’s going to drive me back. That is not a true statement and I am not against my kids idolizing other people. That means they see me as their father and they really don’t see me as a basketball player. That means my wife and I are doing our jobs in terms of being the great parents that we have to be. So, if they see other players as idols, I don’t have a problem with that. Just no red hair in my household.
Q: Are you more proud of your athletic skills or your mental skills? Which was harder to maintain?
Jordan: Well, I came in here with the physical skills. To some degree I was built with appetite to enhance it as I got older and as I played the game. The mental skills came with the education of the game, that either I learned from Coach Smith or I learned in the course of the coaching staffs that I’ve been endeared with. Tex Winter being the most because he was probably the one who would criticize my game more than anybody, and to me that’s a plus and driving force for me. The mental part is the hard part because you have to really learn, taking everything you have learned over a period of time, and apply that to your game and tie that into the physical aspects of your game and make the complete basketball player that you try to become. Physically is a little bit easier, but the mental part is the hardest part and I think that’s the part that separates good players from the great players.
Q: Is there any chance that you will change your mind about this decision?
Jordan: No. I never say never, but 99.9 percent I am very secure with my decision.
Q: What kind of emotions do you have as you make this announcement?
Jordan: It’s tough. I am doing a good job trying to hold back the emotions because it’s like taking away something that I have truly loved for the last, I started when I was 12 years old and now I’m 36 next month. So 24 years I have been playing the game and it’s part of both. It’s just sad that I am leaving the game, but it’s happy because my life is starting to go into a whole other stage. Basketball for me was the first stage. It got me to this point in my life and I knew it had to end. My life takes on a different stage now and it’s a different challenge now and I welcome that and I knew it was coming. I am happy that it is has gotten to this point. I am happy that you guys didn’t run me out of the game. I chose to walk away knowing I that I could still play the game. That’s what I always wished for my career to end. That’s exactly the way I wanted to end it.
Q: What’s next?
Jordan: The next step is, there is a lot of different components. I enjoy taking my kids to school, which I did that this morning. I will enjoy picking my kids up from school, which I look forward to doing. Watching my kids play. My wife and I have a fun time watching our kids play one-on-one, which is very entertaining. Those are things that seem so simple in a lot of peoples lives and have never really been enjoyed by me because of my schedule and the things that I have done over the last 14 years. Now I get to dissect some of those simple things to enjoy and I look forward to that. Sure there is a lot of business opportunities there and that won’t consume me, but that certainly will take away some of the competitive juices that will be left over from not playing basketball. For the most part, I am just going to enjoy life and do some of the things that I’ve never done before.
Q: Is there a record that you wish you could get that you now will not be able to achieve? And, are you at all worried about the spirit of the young players in the game?
Jordan: No, there is not a record that I didn’t get that I would have loved to have gotten. I am pretty sure people would say, ‘I would have like to lead the league and score the most points in history of the game.’ But, I would rather give that up to get six titles. It’s a compensation there.
In terms of the youth of the game, I think we really have to be very patient with them and empower more guidance to them to still enjoy the game and play the game with a lot of energy. The unfortunate thing, either myself or some of the other players before me, has brought more to focus is the financial aspect of the game. I think that is going to have to dissipate a little bit and get more back to the love of the game. The love of the game is what you do on the basketball court and I am pretty sure David wants that to happen. I am pretty sure that every owner wants that to happen, but no matter what happens in this business of basketball, if you didn’t get paid a dime you still would play the game of basketball somewhere. That love has to be illustrated in the way that you play the game and the way that you carry yourself on and off the court. I think that’s something that we all, as athletes, not just professional basketball players but all professional athletes, have to take into account when they are stepping out in the public eye.
Q: You’ve had so many thrills in your career, can you perhaps point out one or two of them that stand out in your mind that stand out above the rest?
Jordan: Well, the first and last shot. Those are two that you just can’t erase because it started and ended my career to some degree. The year we got past the Pistons, because that was getting over the hump. We got to the hump, but we really could never get over the hump. I think the year we beat Cleveland, when no one thought we could beat Cleveland. I think that gave the city or got the city behind the Chicago Bulls and if you put your mind to something you can accomplish what you believe in. A lot of people didn’t give us a chance and we went out and we beat Cleveland and I think that showed to the public here in Chicago that either you are with us or you’re not. We’ve got to make a change here in the Chicago Bulls organization and we are going to have to do it with the belief starting then and then hopefully extend it outside of that. I think that was a major step that ended that whole thought process.
Q: Do you have any interest in coaching the game of basketball?
Jordan: Not right now. I can’t say I will, never say never. I want to get away from basketball a little bit and look at it from afar. If the interest evolves somewhere down the road, that’s fine. I wouldn’t mind that, but right now the only coaching I can do is at home and I am having a tough time doing that. I would rather get away from the game a little bit.
Q: If Phil Jackson ended up somewhere else, let’s say Madison Square Garden, would you play for him again?
Jordan: That’s not even envisioned in my mind right now. I don’t think that’s going to happen. I’m pretty sure that’s not going to happen. If Phil ends up in New York, I’m happy for Phil. Although I love New York, I can’t see myself coming out of retirement and playing in New York
Q: [Question not heard]
Jordan: No, but it kind of looked that way. Up until that point all my shots were short because I was getting tired. I guess, the lessons that you learn over the years is that stick with the shot a little longer, make sure you get that extra little bit and that was my thinking, was to make sure that I extend and go through the necessary fundamentals, to get the ball to the basket and try not to look as if I was posing for all of the photographers, but that was not the case.
Q: If the season had started on time would you have played? What happened to you finger while you were away on vacation and was that a factor in your decision?
Jordan: Well, it was an unfortunate thing, [it was] an accident trying to cut a cigar and I severed a tendon which I have to have surgery on in the next couple of weeks. Hopefully it won’t alter my golf game, but my decision was made before this happened. If, from what doctors told me, even if I chose to play that I wouldn’t be able to play for two months, but that never had any factors in terms of my decision.
Q: You have been able to transcend geographical, racial and social barriers with your stature and respect, do you go into seclusion now or do you try to solve some of the world problems?
Jordan: Two big no’s. I don’t think I can go into seclusion and certainly I can’t solve the worlds problems. There is a lot of problems out there, there is a lot of things that I can lend my support to and I will do that. Seclusion is for me, I will back away from the public eye to some degree. I still have obligations with endorsements which will require me to be in the public’s forefront for a little while. I, hopefully, will be on a minor scale in terms of, I will still be doing commercials, that’s simple, but I can’t save the world by no means.
Q: Do you look at some of the people around you surrounding you telling you not to give it up, as motivation to give it up?
Jordan: No. When I heard people saying that, they didn’t know Michael Jordan. It’s mostly speculation and I try not to let that influence my decision in terms of what I know what’s best for Michael Jordan. In conversing with my wife and my friends, and once I get feedback from them, I make my own decision. Not based on what I read or what I hear. There is a lot of speculation that was totally untrue, but I am pretty sure people had a chance to read it and enjoy it. It didn’t influence my decision, by no means
Q: Last time you used the terminology, ‘not slamming the door shut.’ You’re not using it this time, does that mean you are still not slamming it shut? Will you still show up for the ring ceremony even thought Jerry gave you your ring today?
Jordan: I’ll ask Jerry if there is going to be a ring ceremony night and I would love to still come and support the rest of the players and see some of the players that may not be here. I look forward to doing that and if that happens. Ninety nine, point nine is how you read it. It’s not really 100 percent, but it’s close. So, that is where I stand. I am not going to say never, never. I’m saying 99.9 and you take it for what it’s worth. Q: Is it safe to say that there is never going to be another Michael Jordan?
Jordan: There is never going to be another Michael Jordan. There is never going to be another Dr. J., I knew that. There is never going to be another Elgin Baylor, I knew that. So the kids of tomorrow, there is never going to be another Michael Jordan. It can be a Grant Hill, it can be Anfernee Hardaway, it can be Kobe Bryant, but Michael Jordan is Michael Jordan. You may pick bits and pieces of his game or his personality and somehow correlate it to yours, but either way you have to evolve to be the person that you are. Sure, you are going to use comparisons as a standard of measurement, yes that happens, but it’s different circumstances that you have to deal with in each era. I didn’t have the same things Dr. J had in his era and I’m pretty sure Kobe and some of the guys who are coming behind me is not going to have the same. So, they have to evolve to be the players that they are or they are going to be, with maybe my influences and other influences, but you’re right, there is not going to be another Michael Jordan and I wouldn’t advise the other guys to be that or do that.
Q: What was some of the most difficult things for you to deal with in your career?
Jordan: Losing early on. I guess, part of losing that you had to change your game to. To the criticisms that you were receiving, well Michael Jordan doesn’t make his basketball players around him better. There is some truth to that because I really didn’t know how and I had to learn to do that. That was a challenge, but yet it was a negative toward Michael Jordan and I used that negative as a positive. There is a lot of negative things that happened to me in my life, within the game of basketball and outside basketball, but I’ve always been able to take that negative and turn it into a positive as a learning experience, but yet move forward from. I wouldn’t change anything. I wouldn’t change any of the lessons that I’ve learned from the negative and then the positive because I think they helped me evolve to the person that I am. But there is a lot of negative things that enhance me as a person and me as a player.
Q: Did you anticipate the lockout taking this long and did you think that it is a fair agreement?
Jordan: I didn’t anticipate it being this long. I think the players were willing to sit out for the best deal that they felt was fair. I am in favor of what the majority says. If the players and everyone feels this is a fair deal, I’m happy. I always felt, and I’ve said it before in the last Collective Bargaining Agreement, I can be pleased by any Collective Bargaining Agreement, but the majority has to be pleased with the Collective Bargaining Agreement and it was very evident that they were. Patrick Ewing and the whole negotiating team as well as myself when I tried to contribute, we were fighting for the best deal that the majority would accept and the majority accepted it. In terms of fairness, we’ll see. We’ll see how things happen and see if some of the awareness of some of the things that the owners wanted to address is addressed, but yet the players they felt were the sticking points and it turns out to be a fair deal for the game, I’m happy with that. That’s all I ever wanted from both sides.
Q: It will be hard not seeing you as a part of this organization, could you see yourself helping the Bulls out in any way in the future, whether it is a marketing role or helping them to rebuild this club?
Jordan: I am not against that, but I think the best way to survive without Michael Jordan is to somehow start to live without him in some respects. I’m always going to support the Chicago Bulls because it’s given me a great joy to be a part of the organization, but life without Michael Jordan somehow and sometimes has to be without Michael Jordan’s input. I will, if need be and they need my support in anything, I will certainly consider that and would lend my two cents to it.
Q: Is there anything that you had to give up during your career that bothers you or you have resentment toward? What do you think the future life will be in terms of public life vs. private?
Jordan: There are a lot of things about my lifestyle that I truly don’t like but I’ve come to accept, because I’ve stepped into the forum that I have to deal with it. There is so much speculation about things that are totally untrue, but you have to deal with it and you have to let it roll off the back and deal with it. You learn not to bring it too much into focus because it’s not worth the headache. Hopefully that will subside some as I step away from the spotlight. It may not, but I have to deal with it. That’s one of the unfortunate things that a celebrity has to deal with, the speculations and some of the untrue things that are printed about them. It’s unfair, but it’s part of the whole picture I guess to some degree.
Q: Some of your friends in the game can’t take the championship away from you now that you’re retired.
Jordan: I like that because I’ve talked to Patrick [Ewing], I’ve talked to Magic [Johnson] and [Larry] Bird played when I won my titles, because I had to go to some degree through Boston and L.A.
Patrick, I don’t know, he won’t be able to live with himself if he can’t beat Michael Jordan in a series and Charles Barkley I told would never win because he doesn’t dedicate himself to winning. All of them joked with me and hated to see the possibility of me retiring just because they didn’t have an opportunity to beat me in the Finals or get past me. That is a cute thing about retiring and I will always hold that in high respect when I see these guys socially.
Q: Juanita, what are your feelings about the retirement and how will this change your life?
Juanita Jordan: Actually, my life won’t change at all. I see Michael doing more carpooling. That’s about it.
Q: What was Phil’s Jackson’s role in your decision and do you think that if the season had started on time you would have been more inclined to play?
Jordan: Phil and I talked all season long about what the possibilities might be at the end of the season and once he made his decision, he didn’t want his decision to influence mine, and I said it wouldn’t. And I didn’t want my decision to influence his. And it didn’t. True I’ve said I would rather still play with Phil Jackson here, but that is just my opinion but that doesn’t tell me, or that shouldn’t have him, make a decision unless it is best for Phil Jackson because that is what is first and foremost important to me, making sure that he is happy (with his decision).
So no, he didn’t have any influence in this decision and in fact, he didn’t even know. I haven’t talked to Phil since somewhere midway last summer and if the season had started in October, I’m pretty sure I would have still made this decision and I don’t think that would change based on my feelings now.
Q: One last time for the record, why do you have to walk out of here with that one percent in your pocket?
Jordan: Because it is my one percent and not yours. That is why.
Q: Michael, you used to consult a lot with your father about decisions. What would he say to you now?
Jordan: I think it wouldn’t have been any different. What you see from me, is what you would have seen from him. He would have done the same thing, you know, he would have probably answered the questions before I answered the questions. He would have probably told me that this is the perfect time, the writing’s on the wall, take it, walk away with it with your head held high and enjoy your kids and move on. So it wouldn’t have been any different from what I am doing. My second father, Gus [Lett], wherever Gus is, he has been saying the same thing for a while. I guess he just likes to get out of Chicago for the warm weather. So, it is no different than what has happened, my father basically would have given me the same advice and my mother basically did.
Thank You. Thank you Chicago.