Whatever the case, there's no denying that what had started off so joyfully had turned messy. And Pollin's people were tiring of what they saw as Jordan's lack of gratitude for being given a percentage of the team for free.

Jordan's image was dented off the court as well. In October 2002, he sued his former lover, Karla Knafel, alleging that she tried to extort $5 million from him. In a countersuit, Knafel charged that Jordan owed her the money for remaining silent and agreeing not to file a paternity suit after she became pregnant.

DNA tests later determined that Jordan wasn't the father. Her suit died in the courts.

If there were a statue of Jordan in front of the Wizards' arena, what would it depict? Michael handing out money to wing-tipped businessmen? Or maybe something more post-modern? Jordan as an ATM -- Automated Teller Michael?

The area around what was then called the MCI Center (now the Verizon Center) already was going through a renaissance, but the addition of Jordan supercharged it. The Penn Quarter neighborhood sizzled on game nights. The same phenomena had happened on the West Side in Jordan's Chicago years, in the area surrounding the United Center.

He established a restaurant, jordans, in the Ronald Reagan Building on Pennsylvania Avenue, and it was an immediate hit.

"Anytime there was a rumor he was coming to dinner, we'd get 150, 200 reservations that night," said Daniel Mahdavian, who was the restaurant's general manager. "It was remarkable. I had to schedule extra staff when I knew he was coming. He usually gave us a heads-up. I knew we were going to have a huge number of reservations and a huge number of people coming to see him."

Mahdavian said Jordan would come to the restaurant two or three times a week when the Wizards were in town. He would visit diners at their tables. Now it can be told: His favorite item on the menu was sweet-potato fries.

"I used to pick the music -- it was a voodoo-bar kind of music," Mahdavian said. "One day he said to me, 'I need to teach you about our music.' He sent his assistant to buy me 150 R&B CDs. He was very generous and giving."

Whether Jordan's presence had a lasting effect on the neighborhood around the Verizon Center is open to debate. It already was growing before he arrived. Businesses were setting up shop. Restaurants were thriving.

But when Jordan was playing, the Wizards were getting 5,000 more people a game than they were when he was an executive. The area felt it.

"I will say this -- I ain't seen any of them businesses close up," said Walker, the pastor. "They got established, and they're still here. In that sense, I guess you've got to say his footprint is on the city. He gave it a fresh life. I think we're better off that he was here for that short stint than if he hadn't been."

Whether the same can be said about the Wizards is also up for debate. Some argue that Jordan weakened the franchise by selling out the future for a chance to win while he was playing. A conflict between Richard Hamilton and Jordan reportedly led to Hamilton's trade to Detroit and the arrival of Jerry Stackhouse.

Collins sees it differently.

"He left them in a situation cap-wise where they had enough money to go out and sign Gilbert Arenas," he said. "The talent level was appreciably better when Michael left than when he started. I think a lot of that gets lost.

"And then you talk about the games he played. The games were all sold out. Washington was buzzing about basketball again. Again, a lot of that gets lost."

When Jordan's relationship with the Wizards ended, his restaurant closed soon after.

"He was the main reason that restaurant was going to be successful," Mahdavian said. "After he was gone, the management tried to keep the place alive by making it more of a bar scene. That was the end of that. A lot of people in the city felt like he was used [by the Wizards]."

On May 7, 2003, Pollin let Jordan go during an 18-minute meeting. Just like that. Jordan believed he had a verbal understanding that allowed him to resume his duties. He felt a keen lack of appreciation for helping the franchise make a huge profit with him in a Wizards jersey.

In turn, Pollin and team president Susan O'Malley were taken aback by Jordan's arrogance and what they perceived as his presumption that he would one day take control of the team, according to Leahy.