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Monday, October 29, 2001
Updated: October 31, 12:59 PM ET
ESPN The Magazine: New Rules

By by Jerry Bembry

Three years removed from the court he once dominated, The King is back -- again. And, as always, hes confident. "I'm not running from nobody," Michael Jordan says, not that anyone ever expected he would. Trouble is, the court has changed. And we're not just talking about the new zone defense rule.

Out West, Jordan's successor as commander in chief, Shaquille ONeal, and his secretary of offense, Kobe Bryant, are seeking a Lakers three-peat. The Blazers have the talent to challenge L.A., but if Sheed is the leader, theyre bound to self-destruct. The Spurs have the well-respected Tim Duncan -- but little in the way of help. Our pick to topple the Lakers: the Kings, guided by Chris Webber and supported by generous foreign aid.

Back East, the Sixers -- with all due respect to A.I. -- look like a one-term wonder. The Bucks now have a Big Four, thanks to the signing of much-needed muscle in Anthony Mason; too bad they still play with only one ball. VC has a stronger supporting cast in Toronto. Cousin Tracy McGrady, though, will end up with bragging rights in Orlando, now that teammate Grant Hill is ready to reestablish himself among the NBAs elite.

And so next June it will be the Kings vs. the Magic, with the team thats been more battle-tested the last three years winning in seven.

Right. Its the season of The King.

But, like the rest of us, hell have to pay homage to the Kings.

This article appears in the November 12 issue of ESPN The Magazine.