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Jordan finishes with 15 points in final NBA game

4/17/2003

PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- Michael Jordan sat on the bench, smiling and
joking with teammates as the sellout crowd chanted, "We want Mike!
"We want Mike!''

Though he didn't want to go back in, Jordan wouldn't disappoint
the fans in the final game of his NBA career.

Jordan pulled off his warmups, received yet another lengthy
ovation, went back on the court, and was purposely fouled by Eric
Snow. Fittingly, Jordan made his final two shots -- both free
throws.

One of the greatest players in NBA history, Jordan then exited
for good with 1:44 remaining in the fourth quarter of Washington's
107-87 loss to Philadelphia on Wednesday night.

Another standing ovation followed, this one including the
coaches and other players. Jordan flashed his familiar wide smile, waved to the crowd and took a seat on the bench one last time.

"It's time to move on,'' Jordan said. "It's easier to accept
that because physically I know it and feel it.''

Jordan finished with 15 points, four rebounds and four assists
in 28 minutes -- drawing several adoring ovations from a Philly
crowd notorious for its boorish behavior.

The fans did boo, but only when they thought Jordan wasn't
coming back into the game. He went to the bench with 4:13 left in
third quarter, and didn't return until 2:35 remained in the game.

With the Sixers ahead by 21 points and 9½ minutes left, the
chants of "We want Mike!'' started. The chant grew louder as the
period progressed with Jordan remaining seated, and fans ignored
the game to stand and stare at the Wizards' bench, wondering why
Jordan wasn't playing.

"The game didn't merit me going back in,'' Jordan said.
"Obviously, they wanted to see me make a couple of baskets. That
was very, very respectful.''

While the fans implored Jordan to return, Wizards coach Doug
Collins pleaded with him.

"He really didn't want to, but I said, 'Michael, please, you
got to go out there,''' Collins said.

Jordan's final points almost looked scripted, with Snow fouling
him in the backcourt for no apparent reason except to send him to
the line.

"Coach (Larry Brown) told me to foul him, get him to the line
to get some points and get him out of there,'' Snow said.

After both foul shots went in, the Wizards committed a foul a
second later so that Jordan could be removed from the game and
receive the proper send-off. In a rare scene, the players on the
court turned to Jordan and applauded, too.

The 40-year-old Jordan would have preferred to end his career in
the playoffs, but the Wizards never clicked during his two years in
Washington and finished 37-45 in both seasons.

But that was merely a footnote on a stirring night in which the
basketball public watched one of the greatest athletes in history
playing the game one final time.

Jordan finished his career with 32,292 points -- the
third-highest total in league history, behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
and Karl Malone. Jordan's career average of 30.12 goes down as the
best in NBA history, just ahead of Wilt Chamberlain's 30.07.

"I never, never took the game for granted. I was very true to
the game, and the game was very true to me. It was just that
simple,'' Jordan said.

Earlier in the game, Jordan showed his age.

There was a play in the first quarter when he looked like the
Jordan of old, except for the result. Starting near the foul line,
Jordan ducked his shoulder, lowered his head, stuck out his tongue
and drove to his right, the ball rolling off his fingers ever so
softly as it arched toward the net.

Rather than going in, though, the ball hit the front rim and
missed -- one of several of his shots that came up a few inches
short.

One of the exceptions was Jordan's final shot of the first half
-- a one-handed dunk that came after he received a nice pass under
the basket from Bobby Simmons.

Jordan hit his first two shots of the third quarter but didn't
do much else positive in the period. On an alley-oop pass from
Tyronn Lue, the ball hit him in the fingertips and bounced
harmlessly away. A lazy cross-court pass was picked off by Aaron
McKie, leading to one of Philadelphia's 31 fast-break points.
Jordan's final field-goal attempt was a missed layup with 8:13
remaining.

"I'm not embarrassed,'' Jordan said, "but it's just not ...
I've had better feelings in terms of playing a competitive game.''

Allen Iverson scored 35 points as the Sixers clinched home-court
advantage in the first round of the playoffs. They open against New
Orleans on Sunday night.

Many people in the crowd wore Jordan replica jerseys, including
one small boy in an oversized black Bulls jersey who wasn't looking
when Jordan, about to inbound the ball, tussled his hair as the boy
walked along the sideline. When the child turned around, he was
stunned.

The 76ers had a couple of pregame surprises for Jordan,
presenting him with a golf cart driven onto the court by Moses
Malone and Julius Erving, then having longtime Chicago Bulls public
address announcer Ray Clay introduce Jordan with his familiar
inflection of "From North Carolina ...''

Game notes
Referee Tommy Nunez, 64, worked his final regular-season
game. He has been an NBA official for 30 seasons. ... Keith Van
Horn (strained left foot) and Derrick Coleman (thigh strain)
returned for Philadelphia.