Michael Jordan, called by many the greatest basketball player ever, is retiring.
Jordan, still distraught over the murder of his father on July 23, has called a news conference for this morning at the Chicago Bulls' training headquarters in suburban Deerfield to announce his decision.
Jordan, 30, confirmed his retirement to the Chicago Sun-Times, saying: "It's time for me to move on to something else.
"I know a lot of people are going to be shocked by this decision and probably won't understand. But I've talked it over with my family and friends, and most of all I'm at peace with myself."
Jordan attended Tuesday night's American League baseball playoff game between the Chicago White Sox and Toronto Blue Jays, where he threw out the ceremonial first pitch. He left his seat at Comiskey Park in the sixth inning after word began to spread that he was intending to retire.
Jordan came to the Bulls in 1984 from the University of North Carolina where he was named college player of the year in 1983 and 1984. In 1982, as a freshman, Jordan's last-second shot against Georgetown gave North Carolina the NCAA title.
In 1984 he also led the United States Olympic team to a gold medal in Los Angeles.
He was an instant star in the NBA and in 1991 led the Bulls to their first of three championships.
After the 1992 championship, and with very little rest between seasons, Jordan agreed to play for the United States' "Dream Team" in the Summer Olympics at Barcelona, Spain. Then it was back to the Bulls after a short break. Remarkably, Jordan still played at a skill level that permitted him to win the NBA season scoring championship for the seventh time, one short of Wilt Chamberlain's record.
Jordan has became one of the most recognizable athletes in the world. But over the past year he became disenchanted with continuing innuendo over an alleged gambling habit. He was the subject of a book by Richard Esquinas this summer that said Jordan owed him more than $1 million in gambling debts.
But it was the murder of his father, James Jordan, in his home state of North Carolina, that had the biggest impact. On Tuesday, prosecutors announced their plan to seek the death penalty against two 18-year-olds charged with killing James Jordan.
On Monday, while confirming that Jordan was expected to undergo a surgical procedure on the toes of his left foot and miss at least two weeks of training camp, General Manager Jerry Krause of the Bulls addressed an inquiry into Jordan's possible retirement by saying: "He's in the process of mourning, and we're very careful about that. When he comes in, we'll sit down."
Jordan's representative, Washington attorney David Falk, said on Monday: "At whatever point in time there is an announcement, I'm sure people would be told. We aren't announcing anything today."
That only fueled a fire of further speculation, one that swept through this city like the Great Chicago Fire of the previous century. While Jordan himself was ducking questions at the baseball game, his coach, Phil Jackson, told the Denver Post that his superstar had indeed decided to play no more.
Jackson said that the death of James Jordan robbed his son of his desire to play basketball. According to the paper, a source close to Jordan said the star just didn't have the fire to play anymore.
Jordan's retirement robs the NBA of its biggest box office attraction. Russell Granik, NBA deputy commissioner, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that Jordan informed commissioner David Stern of his retirement in a telephone call early Tuesday.
"David called me as soon as he heard," Granik told the newspaper late Tuesday night. "At first I wondered if he was serious. But David said Michael had made up his mind. Whether it's permanent or not remains to be seen. But it's true."
Clipper coach Bob Weiss also wondered if Jordan's retirement is permanent.
"I could easily see him coming back in a year of half a year after he's had time to get away from it and see that he misses it," Weiss said.
"He's not doing it because of ill health or because he can't play the game anymore. He's just burned out mentally fighting for the championships and also because of the tragedy in his personal life. He just needs to get away."
Jordan played golf Monday in Florida, then returned to Chicago to attend the White Sox's first postseason game in 10 years.
It was supposed to be a celebration as the favored son threw out the first ball in the first game of the American League Championship Series. Fittingly, for Chicago, the White Sox lost to Toronto, 7-3.
But it surely wasn't the city's biggest loss Tuesday night.
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