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Jordan Calls It a Career... Again

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CHICAGO (AP) — The NBA's greatest player made it official today.

Michael Jordan retired from the Chicago Bulls after 13 seasons, six championships and countless high-flying dunks.

``I played it to the best I could play it,'' Jordan told a packed news conference at United Center. ``I tried to be the best basketball player I could be.''

``I've had a great time,'' he said.

Jordan alluded to his first retirement in 1993, when he briefly pursued a professional baseball career.

``Well, we do this again, a second time,'' he said.

Word of Jordan's retirement broke late Monday night, but he had refused to comment until today. After leading the Bulls to their sixth championship in June, Jordan had said he would make an announcement on his future only once the NBA lockout ended.

``I thought about saying just two words, `I'm gone,' but I thought I owed my fans a lot more than that,'' he said, with his wife, Juanita, at his side.

``My life will take a change,'' Jordan said.

He said he looked forward to being a parent and would ``live vicariously through my kids,'' whether or not they played basketball.

``Mentally, I'm exhausted, I don't feel I have a challenge,'' Jordan said. ``Physically, I feel great.''

``This is a perfect time for me to walk away from the game. I'm at peace with that.''

Joining the 35-year-old Jordan at the podium were Bulls chairman Jerry Reinsdorf and NBA commissioner David Stern.

``This is a day I hoped would never come,'' Reinsdorf said. ``It's a tough day for basketball fans all over the world.''

Countered Stern: ``I disagree with Jerry. This is a great day. The greatest player is retiring with the grace that describes his play.''

Asked if he had lost his desire to play, Jordan responded: ``The desire is always going to be there.''

But he said he wanted to make sure that the desire was there ``not one-fourth of the time I step onto the court, but every time.''

Although he said, ``I never say never,'' he absolutely closed the door on whether he would return to the game.

``I'm very secure in my decision,'' he said.

``I'm just going to enjoy life and do things I've never done before,'' Jordan said.

Jordan appeared with a bandage on his right index finger and said he said he severed a tendon while trying to cut a cigar and would need surgery.

He said he hoped the Bulls would re-sign teammate Scottie Pippen, but he added that was his personal opinion and that he didn't know what decisions would make in signing free agents.

``We set high standards around here,'' he said.

Around the league and throughout the city that worships him, Jordan's impending retirement didn't come as a surprise.

But most acknowledged that neither the Bulls nor the NBA would be the same without him, especially during this lockout-shortened season.

Jordan met with a few teammates at his home Monday and told them the thought of playing an abbreviated, 50-game season wasn't enough of a challenge, the Chicago Tribune reported.

Now Jordan can go out as he always wanted - on top. His last-second shot - the last one he might ever take - beat Utah in Game 6 in June and gave the Bulls their sixth title.

``There's a way to go out as an athlete, and that's the way to go out,'' said B.J. Armstrong, one of about a dozen players working out Tuesday at the Berto Center.

Armstrong, who now plays with Charlotte, is a good friend of Jordan's and a teammate on Chicago's first three NBA championship teams.

``He went out on top, he made the last shot, he made all the right plays. He's had a fabulous career and everything you could ever ask as an athlete, he's done. He had a chance to leave and this was the chance,'' Armstrong said.

``He's doing it his way. There's a part of me that is sad, but a part of me that is happy to see him go out on top.''

He would also be going out as a five-time league MVP, 10-time league scoring champion and the No. 1 per-game scorer in NBA history.

Johnny Bach, an assistant coach on three of the Bulls' championship teams, praised Jordan for not only his skill, but for the joy he brought to the game.

``He never looked like he'd been sentenced by a judge to play basketball,'' Bach said. ``I've seen too many athletes not go out at the right time. They stay and struggle and lose some of the dignity they are entitled to.''

Appalachian State coach Buzz Peterson called his former North Carolina roommate and put the question to him directly.

``What's going on? I've got 25 pink slip phone messages here in front of me,'' Peterson said. ``He just laughed and said everything's coming out now and everything's being said.''

Peterson said the Bulls' coaching change didn't have anything to do with Jordan's decision, but family considerations did.

``He's just run out of things to prove and he loves those kids. Whenever I talk to him, he just can't stop talking about Marcus and Jeffrey and Jasmine,'' Peterson said.

``Marcus and Jeffrey are playing basketball now and he could tell you how many points they scored and how many assists they had and what the final score was of every one of their games.''

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