After one brief stint in retirement, the man widely hailed as the greatest player in NBA history officially left the game that he has ruled for the last 15 years on Wednesday.
Michael Jordan, whose last shot gave his Chicago Bulls a win over the Utah Jazz and another NBA title last June, announced his retirement at a press conference at Chicago's United Center on Wednesday.
"I thought about saying two words: I'm gone, but I figured I owed the fans and the media more than that," Jordan joked during the announcement. What he offered was at times simple ("I am here to announce my retirement from the game of basketball."), and at other times humble ("I think the game itself is a lot bigger then Michael Jordan.")
Of course, Jordan's retirement is about more than the Bulls losing a key player. It is about Michael Jordan, already a figure of mythical proportions, officially stepping into the world of legend.
"The man is a genius," filmmaker Spike Lee told MTV News. Lee, who directed Jordan in a series of Nike commercials, added, "I really think that it's important that geniuses aren't just relegated to the arts. If you're an artist, no matter what field you are, if you're great in your field no matter where you are… I mean, Muhammad Ali was a boxer, but he's still an artist. Michael Jordan's a basketball player but the level that he performed at, he's an artist, so that's his legacy." [28.8 RealVideo]
Lee crossed paths with Jordan just as the North Carolina grad was becoming much more than a basketball player. His smile, his charm, and his awe-inspiring skill made him an icon who could sell the world Air Jordans, cologne, and even the NBA itself.
Wu-Tang Clan's Inspectah Deck told MTV News. "But, you got a lot of new people out there. It's time for them to shine, and they can't get that with the veteran around you know. But do your thing Mike. Whether you retire, you know what I mean, be a coach or something."
"He ain't gonna leave the game," Wu-Tang's U-God added. "We love you. We love him." [28.8 RealVideo]
Yes, Jordan may in fact be walking away from the game, but he will not necessarily leave it. His accomplishments will hang heavy over the court, and over popular culture, for generations to come.