Michael Jordan (Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports)
As his 50th birthday approaches on Sunday, and the sports world covers the approaching day like it's an actual milestone rather than a justifiable excuse to splash the most compelling athlete of our generation across magazine covers, Michael Jordan is setting a goal that most men have when hitting the half-century mark.
Only, Michael Jordan is not most men.
When MJ talks about losing weight, it provokes instant speculation -- justified or not -- that he's planning something. A comeback, perhaps?
Jordan talked about his playing weight in an excellent profile by ESPN's Wright Thompson,
In Charlotte, he starts thinking about 218.
Every morning since returning from the islands, he's been in the gym. At mealtime he texts his nutritionist to find out what he can and can't eat. Ostensibly, the reason is that he stepped on a scale after leaving the excess palace of Mister Terrible and saw this number staring back: 261. Nine days later, sitting in his office and surrounded by basketball, he's down to 248. He'll claim it's about health, or looking good for his 50th birthday party. But in his mind, there's a target: 218, a familiar and dangerous number in Jordan's world.
That's his playing weight.
When he mentions that [fiancee] Yvette [Prieto] never saw him play basketball, he says, "She never saw me at 218." On the wall of his office there's a framed photograph of him as a young man, rising toward the rim, legs pulled up near his chest, seeming to fly. He smiles at it wistfully. "I was 218," he says.
Other hints Jordan could be entertaining the notion of a return? He speaks about how he'd guard LeBron (force him left and into an uncomfortable jump shot) and his longing for his playing days.
Los Angeles Lakers forward Antawn Jamison thinks 2013 Jordan could score 10 or 11 points per game in the right situation (aka playing with LeBron or Kobe Bryant). That sounds like as good a guess as any. How many shots it would take to get those 10 or 11 points is where it'd get interesting.
The whole scenario is far-off, of course. Jordan's spirit may want to come back, but a 50-year-old body may say otherwise.