Was I the only one who was confused when I saw the headline “Jordan to Return.” Maybe it’s just me, but my first thought was, “Great! Another moderate Arab state has returned to the flock and agreed to join the international coalition against terror.”

So I was wrong; it’s happened before, it will most certainly happen again.

When I finally read the story, I was much more disappointed by what had finally become reality, the return of one of the greatest athletes of all time.

I’m not excited about Michael Jordan’s return to the NBA.

I don’t want to see him in a Wizard uniform. I don’t want to see him get beaten off the dribble. I don’t want to see him lose. I don’t want to have to see him walk away disappointed, which is almost inevitable.

Like many non-Bulls fans, I often had a love-hate relationship with Jordan. I rooted for him whenever he wasn’t utterly dominating the Knicks, and even when he did top my team, I thought, if you’ve got to lose, better to lose to the best.

There was something about him that defied team affiliation; that something was greatness. Without question, he was the most popular and talented athlete of the last 20 years. He was worshipped around the sports world, and the entire world, in a way that hadn’t been seen since the World War II-era adulation of guys like DiMaggio and Gehrig.

He was on Wheaties boxes. He was in a movie with Bugs Bunny. He hosted Saturday Night Live. He hocked underwear and made Hanes seem cool. It had to be the shoes. There was even the song, reminding kids that this was one of the good guys, someone you could admire. There was no simpler way to put America’s relationship with Jordan than that – I wanna be like Mike – and so many of us did.

We couldn’t, and I guess we still can’t, get enough of Mike. We couldn’t help it. He was just too easy to like.

He was a great virtuoso performer, with his spectacular dunks and blind foul shots; but at the same time, he was the consummate team player, making everyone around him better and leading his team to victory. Pair Shaq, Kobe and Phil with Bill Carwright, Bill Wennington, Steve Kerr, Judd Bueschler, John Paxson or Luc Longley and you get a decent team. Trade Shaq and Kobe for Michael and Scottie Pippen, and suddenly you have the most dominant team in NBA history.

Jordan was the picture of cockiness, unembarrassed about his belief that he was the best in the world, but at the same time, this was a man with whom the nation wept after the loss of his father.

Even the way he walked away was larger than life, after hitting the game-winning shot to clinch his sixth NBA title. It was more than larger than life – it was perfect.

It’s because of all of this romanticism that I don’t want to see him come back. Kobe Bryant, Vince Carter and Allen Iverson, to name a few, have come as close to possible to filling the gaping hole Jordan left when he retired. Even Jordan himself can’t fill that hole anymore at age 38. He’s going to look old. He’s going to be embarrassed, as well he should, because he won’t be the best in the world anymore.

Like watching a college guy pick up girls at a high school party, watching Jordan is going to be awkward. I’m afraid that someone, most likely Doug Collins, is going to have to take him aside and tell him that everyone is talking about him when he’s not around. And I don’t want to have to be one of those people talking about him.

There is not a lot of upside to this comeback. He can’t possibly improve his legacy, and he can’t possibly improve the Wizards enough to make it worthwhile. No one can make the Wizards better, not even Mike.

Some have argued that it doesn’t matter what Jordan does, that it can’t possibly tarnish his most sterling of images. They point to examples like Muhammad Ali, who was embarrassed and knocked out during an oft-forgotten and ill-advised comeback.

But that was a different era in sports, and particularly in sports journalism. In Ali’s day, the only coverage he got was on Saturday afternoons on Wide World of Sports and in daily newspapers. There was no ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNnews, ESPN.com, ESPNClassic, ESPN The Magazine, CNNSI, CNNSI.com, FoxSportsNet, VCRs, sports talk radio or fantasy sports. Today, we scrutinize every single bit of the minutiae of sports. There is no chance we are going to forget anything Jordan does anytime soon.

Even so, it’s important to remember that this is Jordan that we’re talking about, and he might just be able to pull it off. He says he’s back for the love of the game and is backing it up by donating his salary to charity.

If anyone has earned the right to play just for the love of the game, damn the consequences, it’s certainly him, and if anyone has earned the benefit of the doubt, so too is it him. If he thinks he’s up to the challenge, it’s hard to doubt him, because no one is as competitive as Jordan.

I just hope we’ll always be able to remember him the way we do now, as simply the greatest.

Running the Option Baseball Games Give Glimpse of U.S. Spirit -Sep. 21, 2001 U.S. Spirit Will Prevail -Sep. 14, 2001 A Little Bit Of History Repeating -Sep. 7, 2001 Any Ending A Bad One For Almonte -Aug. 31, 2001 It’s Been So Long … That We Might As Well Keep Singing the Fight Song -Aug. 24, 2001

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