DETROIT - In presenting the last member of the new class for induction into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, CBS sportscaster Jim Nantz told Michael Jordan, "Well, I think you might have had a hunch this day would come someday."
Jordan, however, did not exactly wear the broad smile of an honoree. He looked a trifle uncomfortable yesterday, standing on the stage and later answering questions.
Then he finally came clean.
"This is kind of a love-hate thing for me," Jordan said. "It's a great compliment and great respect, but for me, I always wanted to be able to have you think that I could always go back and play the game of basketball. As long as you have that thought, you never know what can happen. You never know what my abilities can do."
Is he talking comeback?
"No, but I'd like for you to think that I am," Jordan said. "So to me, the Hall of Fame is like, it's over and done with. You can't ever put a uniform back on. It's the total end of your basketball career. It's a great accomplishment and I know I don't walk away from it, but I didn't want to be up here so quickly.
"I wanted to be up here when I was 70 years old, 80 years old. But I'm 45 and I still think I can play. You guys don't know if I can or can't, but at least I've got you thinking that way."
Jordan's fellow 2009 classmates were former rivals David Robinson of the San Antonio Spurs and John Stockton of the Utah Jazz, plus Jazz coach Jerry Sloan and Rutgers women's coach C. Vivian Stringer. There were 16 finalists.
"Every time I see these guys," Jordan said, pointing to Robinson and Stockton, "I'm ready to put my shorts on."
A mention of Jordan's accomplishments over 15 NBA seasons could go on for hours - six championships with the Chicago Bulls, 14 all-star appearances, five MVP awards, six MVP awards for the NBA Finals, and 10 scoring titles.
Jordan ranks third in career points with 32,292 and first in all-time scoring average with 30.12 points per game, just ahead of former 76er Wilt Chamberlain.
Jordan left the game twice, once after the 1992-93 season to experiment with baseball (he returned to the Bulls at the end of the 1994-95 season). He retired in January 1999 but came back in 2001 and played two seasons with the Washington Wizards.
However, a third comeback is unlikely. Jordan, part-owner and managing member of basketball operations for the Charlotte Bobcats, now uses golf to satisfy his thirst for competition.
"I live vicariously through today's athletes," he said. "I'm just starting to get closer to the game where I can watch it without having an appetite to compete. For someone like me, it's tough to be around competitive situations that don't drive you.
"But I've been able to manage and I've been able to survive. Golf is a primary way I can deal with it."