Playboy: How close are you to the end of your basketball career?
Jordan: I'd say four years. If I make it, I make it. If I get tired of basketball sooner, I won't make it. All this negative crap that has happened. Who needs it?
Playboy: What if Reinsdorf wanted to make it worth your while to play longer to keep the stadium full?
Jordan: I would never play an extra year for money. I play the game because I love it. I just so happen to get paid. If I don't feel I still enjoy the game, I can care less what a year is worth. I'm not going to play the game just because of money.
Playboy: Somehow, it's hard to imagine you just walking away.
Jordan: People keep saying, Well, you're never going to be able to walk away, you're always going to want that spotlight. All these old boxers come back, but not me. Once I walk away, I'm walking away. I'm not going to embarrass myself coming back, like I really need that roar of the crowd to live. It was good while it lasted. I've got memories of it. I don't need it again to continue to live. That's what my family is for.
Playboy: What's it like to be a married superstar? Does it take pressure off, or put more on?
Jordan: It's great.
Jordan: It was a well-timed decision to settle down and get married. And it's been a more laid-back environment for me with a wife and two kids. If I were seeing a person, I might be more nervous about infection than I am now. It would have been magnified even more for me if I were single. But I made a choice to get married and to have kids and to settle down with the family, and I'm glad I made it.
Playboy: You grew up in a pretty stable family environment. Did it seem natural to get married?
Jordan: It was like walking into another unknown situation. But I was ready to learn what marriage was all about. Every day you learn something. To live with another person for the rest of your life, that's something you have to work at. You're going to have some good times, some bad times. As a couple, as a unit, as a family, you gotta fight your way through it. But having kids always overrides any problems. And you know, it's sad to say, but especially considering Magic Johnson's situation, I look at my kids and think, I'm very fortunate.
Playboy: Do you want a bunch more?
Jordan: Not a bunch more. Maybe a couple more.
Playboy: How does Juanita feel about that?
Jordan: She's with me. But she wants all boys; I want two girls. I had two brothers and two sisters, so I want a combination of both.
Playboy: Are you worried about your boys, in terms of being Michael Jordan's sons?
Jordan: No. I just want them to have their own lives. I'm not going to try to guide them anywhere. I just want to teach them right from wrong, then let them make their own decisions. I know Jeffrey loves basketball. He has a basket- ball hoop in every room.
Playboy: Does he understand the game?
Jordan: Yeah. He travels a lot. He knows how to shoot a free throw. I tell him to shoot a free throw, and he backs up, dribbles, concentrates, boom. When he goes in for a dunk, he holds his form. And when he's really excited about things, he starts shooting and sayingYes! He's a show-off, man.
Playboy: Whom do you look to for guidance?
Jordan: Most of my guidance has come from my parents. My mom told me to deal with life as it comes, enjoy it as it comes, and that's what I've been doing. Good, bad or ugly. Whatever good that happens, I'm grateful. I give all my respect and tribute to whoever has a hand in it. But when all the bad stuff comes, I try to deal with it in a positive manner.
Playboy: Are you looking at other players to see how they handled the transition from the N.B.A. back to private life?
Jordan: Julius Erving is doing exactly what I want to do. Do you ever see Julius? Do you ever hear from Julius? But I know Julius is doing something he wants to do, and he's kind of taken a step back from public life. That's exactly what I want to do. When his time was up and he walked away from the game, he walked away proud, respected. Exactly what I want to do. When I feel that I've reached my peak and I can feel my skills diminishing, or if other players that I used to dominate have caught up with me and are on the same level, I want to step away.
Playboy: You know there's going to be a long line of guys eager to take you apart, too.
Jordan: And there'd be a long line of articles saying so-and-so killed Jordan tonight. I'd rather step away from the game before I subject myself to that, without a doubt.
Playboy: Very few people have ever been able to walk away.
Jordan: You know what I think? Very few people play because they love the game. Most of them play because they make good money. They keep playing because of the money. I could care less about it. In five years, I would probably stand to make six to seven million dollars, maybe even more than that. But if I don't love the game, no check is going to keep me playing.
Playboy: Would you ever consider going to play in Europe after you retire from the N.B.A.?
Jordan: Yeah, I've thought about it. I would love to go to Europe to play for one year. I could play once a week. It would be like a field trip.
Playboy: What won't you miss when you quit the game?
Jordan: I won't miss the glare, I won't miss the aggravations of people waiting for autographs at all times of the night. The hotels, I won't miss all that.
Playboy: What about the screams?
Jordan: I won't miss that, either. Screaming for another human being is sort of a waste. What's the purpose of screaming? You're not hurt, are you? I don't need the screams and the cheers and I'm not going to wake up in the middle of the night and say, "Why did the screaming stop?" Because I really didn't need it to keep me going, anyway. It was that inner determination to prove to people that, hey, whatever you think I can't do, I can do. Even last year after we won it all--and I showed people that I could pass, I showed people I can play defense, I showed people I could shoot--they said, Let's see him do it a whole year.
Playboy: What's left? What's the challenge now?
Jordan: The challenge is to keep winning and get more rings. People don't consider you great until you have three, four, maybe five rings. They consider you the greatest if your team is winning. I want to continue to win and make sure I'm an important factor in winning.
Playboy: What do you think you'll miss the most about basketball when you retire?
Jordan: The competition, the pre-season. I get a kick out of that, coming back for the next year and going through training camp and seeing all the new players. You go at them and challenge them every day. When someone asks, "What's Michael Jordan like to play with?" I want them to say he busts his ass at practice. He plays at practice like he plays in the game. When I play against someone that's new in the league, I make him respect me. They may have heard about me, but now you get to see me actually in front of you. That drives me . Like playing out West. They don't get to see us that much. I want to come in and say, This is what you're missing.