INDIANAPOLIS -- Michael Jordan's first retirement began in October 1993, the second in January 1999. Neither stuck, of course.
This time, Jordan insists, he means it.
One of the NBA's greatest players ever will be 40 at the end of this season, and he says he won't be back for another.
"I just want to fulfill my year and enjoy it," Jordan said Friday before his Washington Wizards played the Indiana Pacers. "From that point, I'll just move on."
Let the Michael Jordan Farewell Tour begin.
The NBA and its TV partners will have one final chance to cash in on the league's top revenue generator in history.
"Michael's done a lot for the league," said Patrick Ewing, long a foil for Jordan while playing for the Knicks and now an assistant coach with the Wizards. "He was definitely the best player in my era. If he feels it's time for him to go, then I guess it's time."
Jordan said Thursday there was "zero chance" he will play next season.
When he walked away from the game for the second time, winner of six NBA championships with the Chicago Bulls, he said he was 99.9 percent sure he'd never return.
Nonetheless, he came back to the NBA as a player in October 2001, saying he still had a competitive urge.
That's been satisfied, Jordan maintains.
"It's about that time," he said. "That itch is about to be completed."
Jordan signed a two-year, $2.1 million deal last year after stepping down from his executive duties with Washington. Now he plans to return to his role as part owner of the Wizards.
"I think we have the right people in place that they will continue their education when I go back upstairs," he said. "My understanding was to make sure the guys understood what it took to play on this level and learn certain things. I think they're getting it."
Creaky knees and life as a sixth man have diminished Jordan's production. He failed to score at least 10 points in five of the Wizards' first 14 games this season, and he's yet to reach 30.
In one of the worst games of his 15-year career, Jordan scored only eight points and - What?! - missed a breakaway dunk in a loss to Toronto.
The replay of the blown dunk was shown over and over. Jordan showed that he still has some game in his legs by scoring 21 points in 21 minutes the next night against the Celtics.
Jordan, though, no longer can produce 30-point games night after night. What he is hoping for is one last postseason run.
While his Bulls teams routinely finished with one of the best records in the league, the Wizards missed the playoffs last season and entered Friday 6-8 with a four-game losing skid.
Jordan's scoring average of 16.6 points is second on the team (Jerry Stackhouse averages 21.7) - and nothing like his heyday, when he averaged at least 30 a game for seven straight seasons in the 1980s and '90s.
Jordan said he wants to see the Wizards' young core of Kwame Brown, Juan Dixon and Jared Jeffries develop into a playoff-caliber team without him. They are players - like so many 20-somethings in the league - who grew up with posters of Jordan on their bedroom walls.
Dixon, Washington's first-round draft pick in June, is thrilled running the court with his basketball idol at least for one season.
"I got the opportunity," Dixon said. "You're never disappointed when you get the chance to play with Michael Jordan."
In hopes of qualifying for the playoffs one last time, Jordan told Wizards coach Doug Collins his minutes should no longer be limited by concerns over his knees.
The goal has been to give Jordan about 30 minutes a game. He played a season-high 34 in a loss to the Pacers on Tuesday, and is averaging 28.2.
"If we're winning, then my minutes are OK," Jordan said. "I don't mind the young kids playing, but if I feel like we're not winning or I can contribute more, then I'd like my minutes to increase. ... It's not that I want to average 40 minutes a night."
Jordan was surprised Friday by all the attention, saying he always planned to retire when his contract expired.
"I'm not looking to extend my contract," he said. "If that was the case, I would have extended it myself before I even came back."
Perhaps this time Jordan should be believed.
"I have no regrets. None at all," he said. "I'm very happy with everything I've done."
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