At times Jordan goes against his competitive nature and plays deferentially, "trims down his game," as Scottie Pippen puts it, to make his teammates step forward. There's an ulterior motive in that: Jordan will probably be running the Wizards again from the front office as part owner and as vice president of basketball operations, the title he held before he returned to the court for the 2001-02 season. (Sources say, however, that he will listen to overtures from the expansion team in Charlotte.) This makes for a strange working environment in D.C., where the CEO has come down to box up widgets on the assembly line. Perhaps the conflict inherent in Jordan's dual role as boss and player comes out behind closed doors, but that's where it has stayed.
Jordan wishes everything else had stayed hidden away. Over the past decade aspects of his private life (gambling habits; a divorce petition and subsequent reconciliation with his wife, Juanita; messy revelations of hush money paid to a woman with whom he had an affair) have been painfully laid out in public. Yet to most fans Jordan's image remains largely unaltered. It's certainly not because he's done much spin control. Though he dutifully meets the press after each game, it's always a Dragnet-type of interrogation-just the facts, ma'am—and woe to any reporter who strays into private territory. Jordan's appeal is this simple: People like what they see. He's a hero with smile and style, a champion with composure and competitiveness.
So, have a happy 40th, Michael. The Toronto Raptors are in town for your birthday, and nobody will come to the game expecting you to shoot your age. But then, nobody will be surprised if you do.