|Illustration by Mark Smith|
Michael Jordan has not left the building by Wright Thompson
Smoke curls off the cigar. He wears slacks and a plain white dress shirt, monogrammed on the sleeve in white, understated. An ID badge hangs from one of those zip line cords on his belt, with his name on the bottom: Michael Jordan, just in case anyone didn't recognize the owner of a struggling franchise who in another life was the touchstone for a generation. There's a shudder in every child of the '80s and '90s who does the math and realizes that Michael Jordan is turning 50. Where did the years go? Jordan has trouble believing it, difficulty admitting it to himself. But he's in the mood for admissions today, and there's a look on his face, a half-smile, as he considers how far to go.
"I … I always thought I would die young," he says, leaning up to rap his knuckles on the rich, dark wood of his desk.
[On getting older]
The astonishing thing to him was how much he enjoyed this. "At 30 I was moving so fast," he says. "I never had time to think about all the things I was encountering, all the things I was touching. Now when I go back and find these things, it triggers so many different thoughts: God, I forgot about that. That's how fast we were moving. Now I can slow it down and hopefully remember what that meant. That's when I know I'm getting old."
He laughs, knowing how this sounds, like a man in a midlife crisis, looking fondly at something that's never coming back.
"I value that," he says. "I like reminiscing. I do it more now watching basketball than anything. Man, I wish I was playing right now. I would give up everything now to go back and play the game of basketball."
"How do you replace it?" he's asked.
"You don't. You learn to live with it."
"It's a process," he says.