This is the end of Michael Jordan the player. No, really, he means it this time. Barring yet another comeback, the 40-year-old guard will play his final regular season game on April 16 at Philadelphia. Whether Mr. Jordan's playing career will be over that evening in Philadelphia is still up in the air. That's because Mr. Jordan's Washington Wizards are tussling with Milwaukee for the Eastern Conference's final playoff spot.
Mr. Jordan's move from the owner's box to the court in 2001 came with high expectations. With the talent he helped bring to Washington as the owner, he reasoned the Wizards, formerly a league-wide laughingstock, could become a playoff team. But that hasn't happened yet. The backcourt that was supposed to learn the game from Mr. Jordan is now gone. Guard Richard Hamilton, traded by the Wizards for proven star Jerry Stackhouse, has flourished in Detroit. And former No. 1 draft pick Kwame Brown has shown only flashes of his potential in his nearly two seasons of play. Mr. Jordan, who hoped at the beginning of his final comeback to come off the bench, has played more minutes for the Wizards than anyone this season.
If Mr. Jordan is to defy expectations again and carry the Wizards to the playoffs, it will be yet another credit to his already extraordinary career. But life after Michael was hard before for the Chicago Bulls, who have since collapsed. And for the Wizards, who have grown accustomed to Mr. Jordan's bailouts, learning how to be self-sufficient may be even harder.