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Monday, September 24, 2001
MJ's back ... or is he?

By Jim Caple
Page 2

After a three-year retirement, months of speculation and a statement last spring that he was "99.9 percent" certain he would not play again, Michael Jordan is expected to officially announce his second comeback this week.

Michael Jordan
Michael Jordan gets a shot a front-office redemption after a difficult tenure in D.C.
Of course, after his many diets, injuries and second thoughts over the summer, don't expect that announcement to be the final word on the subject before the season starts ...

Sept. 24: It's finally official! With a simple fax to the proper front office, Jordan announces the long-dreaded decision that his devoted fans and basketball peers fear will only embarrass him and tarnish his reputation as the world's most popular athlete: He will return to the studio to film a sequel to "Space Jam."

Sept. 25: Jordan holds a press conference to announce that he is "still 99.9 percent certain" he will not buy Kobe Bryant's new rap CD.

Sept. 26: In his strongest statement on the possible comeback yet, Jordan tells the Washington Post he will return to the court "for the love of the game," but first must undergo minor surgery to remove Ahmad Rashad's lips from his rear end.

Sept. 27: The Wizards' p.r. department rushes to declare that a roster with Jordan's name on it was posted on the team's website "prematurely." When reporters point out that the team has also scheduled a "landmark" press conference for the next day and doubled ticket prices and begun selling jerseys with Jordan's name and number and begun printing pocket schedules with his photo and begun airing commercials with the slogan, "He's baaaaaaack!!!" the Wizards claim it is all "a clerical error."

Sept. 28: Jordan announces that while he is "still 99.9 percent certain" that he will not make a comeback as a player, he will participate in 82 informal pickup games with the Wizards, beginning Oct. 30 at Madison Square Garden and ending April 16 in Washington. "I'm just doing it to lose some weight," he says.

Sept. 29: Two days before training camp opens, Charles Barkley signs with the Wizards and announces that he and Jordan are coming out of retirement to lead the team to the playoffs. The NBA temporarily holds up the signing to make certain Jordan still has the authority to sign players and to find out if Reebok can make basketball shorts with a 68-inch waist.

Michael Jordan
In early October, MJ will get discouraged when he gets his first glimpse of his Wizards teammates at a practice.
Oct. 1: Jordan meets the press for the first time to explain his comeback decision at the Wizards' media day, which is so heavily attended that only a reporter from BBC 5 is available to cover President Bush's latest address to Congress and the nation. CNN covers Jordan's press conference live along with the highly inappropriate graphic: Washington's New Air War.

Oct. 2: The Wizards open training camp, and Jordan quickly makes it clear he is serious about taking the team to the playoffs. Determined to make Washington the fittest team in the league, he ends practice by having his teammates run a series of grueling conditioning drills around Barkley.

Oct. 3: After seeing his teammates in action, Jordan begins to reconsider his comeback decision.

Oct. 5: Oh, no -- Jordan suffers a setback. He'll have to sit out the next two weeks with two broken ribs, after he accidentally steps between Barkley and the team's buffet line.

Oct. 11: Jordan declares he is "99.9 percent certain" he won't go see any more movies starring Keanu Reeves.

Oct. 15: With his ribs finally healed, Jordan returns to the court and immediately strains his back picking up his endorsement checks.

Oct. 19: Jordan practices for the first time in two weeks, but Barkley's comeback ends suddenly because of an unfortunate training camp accident with a slab of Chili's baby back ribs.

Oct. 25: Jordan gives fans reason to rejoice by announcing that "Michael Jordan: the Fragrance" will no longer be sold.

Oct. 29: On the eve of the opener, Jordan says he is in no shape to play yet and that he is again "99.9 percent certain" he won't play the season.

Oct. 30: Jordan scores 48 points, pulls down 17 rebounds, dishes off 11 assists and hits a game-winning trey at the buzzer to lift the Wizards to a season-opening 108-107 victory over the Knicks at Madison Square Garden.

During his postgame press conference, he denies he played.

Jim Caple is a senior writer for ESPN.com.