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How 9/11 altered Michael Jordan’s return to basketball

A sports headline disappears in the midst of a national tragedy

Washington Wizards forward Michael Jordan bows his Photo credit should read MATT CAMPBELL/AFP via Getty Images

Today marks the 22nd anniversary of the 9/11 attack on our nation. For those of us old enough, we remember the exact moment we became aware of the situation and how that event has impacted our lives ever since.

For me, I was in Los Angeles. I had never been to New York and did not know the city other than through films and sports. In the days that followed, I prepared to drive cross country to help out in any way I could. I remember seeing a newscast that said there were too many volunteers and not enough places to house and feed them. I ended up abandoning my impulsive plan, but a few years later, having been drawn in, I relocated to New York.

I recall just how much of our daily lives were put on hold. Being in a major sports market, the impact on games was huge. It was a major part of my socialization.

I remember vividly going to the first Los Angeles Dodgers game as America was making an effort to return to some sense of normalcy. In particular, the flyover before the game and the national anthem were paramount.

Something to which I was completely unaware was Michael Jordan’s return to basketball was set to be announced on September 11, 2001. It was going to be the big headline of the day.

After what transpired, Jordan didn’t think it would be appropriate to announce his return at a big news conference. Two weeks later, he released the statement “I am returning as a player to the game I love.”

Jordan signed with the Wizards, his second NBA team and his third stint in the league. He took his salary, $1M, and donated it to the families of the victims of the attack.

“Although I am energized by my impending return to the court, I am deeply saddened by the recent tragic events and my heart goes out to the victims and their families,” Jordan said in his statement. “Out of deep respect for them, I will not participate in media interviews before the start of training camp.”

His first game back was in New York at Madison Square Garden on the same night President George W. Bush was tossing out the first pitch at Yankee Stadium at the start of Game 3 of the World Series.

However you chose to honor and remember those who were victims of the tragic events of 9/11, it is my sincere wish that you have found peace and continue to heal, though we never forget.


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