Leading the Bulls through that postseason obstacle course to the championship would be an unprecedented achievement, but bettors, at least, apparently have faith in Jordan. As his return seemed to grow increasingly likely, a Las Vegas line on Chicago's winning the title fell precipitously, going from 40 to 1 to 5 to 1.
Of course, odds are the last thing that Jordan or the NBA would like to talk about. When Jordan quit, he was the subject of a gambling investigation by the league, a probe that was ended soon after his retirement with a finding of no wrongdoing. There was speculation that Jordan retired because he knew he was facing a probable suspension—which league officials denied vehemently after he left the NBA—but Jordan said he had nothing else to prove in basketball.
In fact, when Jordan was considering retirement 17 months ago, Jackson asked what it would take to persuade him to continue playing. Jordan said that he would have to be allowed to appear in only about 20 regular-season games and the playoffs, which was exactly the schedule he seemed to be orchestrating last week. Jordan may have given himself a more manageable season, but he also was allowing himself less time to work his magic with the Bulls. Could Michelangelo take a mediocre work and transform it into a masterpiece almost overnight? The answer was less important than the fact that the artist seemed at long last ready to return to the canvas where he belongs.
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