Michael Jordan Through The Years: Air Jordan XVIII
The 40-Year-Old Legend. Michael Jordan was set to retire at the end of the 2002-03 NBA Season, his second overall with the Washington Wizards and fifteenth overall in his career. By season’s end, MJ averaged 20 points, 6.1 rebounds, 3.8 assists, and 1.5 steals per game for the entire season; for anyone else, that stat-line could’ve been a career year, but for Michael, it was his lowest seasonal output. Michael did manage three 40-point games during the course of the season, which included a 45-point outburst against the Hornets on February 1st and a 43-point performance just days after his fortieth birthday. It didn’t matter that the Wizards were a sub-.500 team, or that Michael would officially end his career on a losing note; it was about his uncontainable love for the game, a passion that served as the driving force behind six NBA Championships, 5 MVPs, 6 NBA Finals MVPs, 10 Scoring Titles, and one of the most unlikeliest yet celebrated comebacks in the history of professional sports. It marked the next page of NBA superstar history, led by rising stars Kobe Bryant, Tracy McGrady, Allen Iverson, and Vince Carter, players who have risen to stardom using Michael as a blueprint. The league was in good hands.
There were plenty of memorable moments during his final season. Michael Jordan was not voted as a starter for the Eastern Conference All-Star Team, but was instead selected as a reserve. Starting Guards Tracy McGrady and Allen Iverson offered their positions to Michael, who declined the generous offer. It wasn’t until moments before the game where Vince Carter shoved Michael, literally, onto the court right before tip-off. Michael Jordan typically shines brightest in the spotlight; he finished the game with 20 points, capping off an amazing performance with a go-ahead bucket with seconds to go via his signature fadeaway jumper, followed by his signature raised fist in celebration. The second half of the season served as a farewell tour for Michael; arenas were packed to see Michael’s final moments in action, hoping for a taste of 90′s dominance that Michael so easily possessed with his pump fakes, fadeaway jumpers, and clutch defense. In his final game as a professional, Michael, who was on the bench with just minutes to go, was coerced into the game by the chants of the Philadelphia crowd. Michael entered for one final minute of glory, and left with 1:45 to go, returned to the bench, and was given a 3-minute standing ovation by his teammates, opponents, the crowd, and the officials.
During his final season, Michael Jordan wore the Air Jordan XVIII, the eighteenth shoe in the Air Jordan Legacy. Designed by long-time Nike designer Tate Kuerbis, the XVIII was inspired by a various collection of Michael’s passions, which included Formula-1 racing, race-car driving shoes, fine italian dress shoes, and Michael’s own Lamborghini Murcielago. The Air Jordan XVIII was released in February 2003 in a Black/Sport Royal colorway, and later followed by a White/Sport Royal and White/Varsity Red version later in the year. Two low-top versions in White/University Blue and Black/Metallic Silver were also introduced that year, followed by a classic Chicago Bulls Black/Varsity Red in 2008. Continue reading for a full visual recap of Michael Jordan and the Air Jordan XVIII, and stay tuned to Sneaker News for the next installment of Michael Jordan Through The Years.