Five weeks before his 50th birthday, Michael Jordan sits behind his desk, overlooking a parking garage in downtown Charlotte. The cell phone in front of him buzzes with potential trades and league proposals about placing ads on jerseys. A rival wants his best players and wants to give him nothing in return. Jordan bristles. He holds a Cuban cigar in his hand. Smoking is allowed.
"Well, s---, being as I own the building," he says, laughing.
As Michael Jordan turns 50 on Sunday, Feb. 17, ESPN recognizes the legacy of the Hall of Fame basketball player. For more on Wright Thompson's story, listen to "The Sporting Life with Jeremy Schaap," which airs throughout the weekend on ESPN Radio and ESPN Radio.com beginning Friday at 10 p.m. ET and again Saturday at 7 a.m. ET.
Back in the office after his vacation on a 154-foot rented yacht named Mister Terrible, he feels that relaxation slipping away. He feels pulled inward, toward his own most valuable and destructive traits. Slights roll through his mind, eating at him: worst record ever, can't build a team, absentee landlord. Jordan reads the things written about him, the fuel arriving in a packet of clips his staff prepares. He knows what people say. He needs to know, a needle for a hungry vein. There's a palpable simmering whenever you're around Jordan, as if Air Jordan is still in there, churning, trying to escape. It must be strange to be locked in combat with the ghost of your former self.