Washington — He drove around defenders with ease and did a little high-step when he made his jump shots.
Michael Jordan might be 39, but who could tell on this night? His game had all the compelling elements of years past flow, rhythm, aggression, confidence.
"That felt good," he said.
The performance during Washington's 114-69 victory against Boston on Thursday came a night after Jordan missed two free throws and a breakaway dunk in the fourth quarter of a defeat in Toronto.
In one of the worst games of his 15-year career Wednesday, Jordan labored on the court, looking less like the greatest basketball player ever and more like an old man who should be doing something else.
At the Air Canada Centre, Jordan seemed as if he were trying simply to hang on for one more year. The rest of the team that Jordan assembled during the summer looked almost as bad in the 74-68 loss.
Sports talk shows nationwide spent much of Thursday comparing Jordan to stars like Willie Mays, who became a sad embarrassment by playing well past his prime.
They spoke too soon.
Jordan scored 21 points in 21 minutes against the Celtics, who endured the worst regular-season loss in their storied history.
He showed no ill effects from the knee problems that bothered him last season. His four-point sequence at the end of the first half two free throws, stolen inbounds pass, 21-foot jumper, celebratory cancan kick lifted the arena as only Jordan can.
The superstar who led the Chicago Bulls to six NBA championships had two reasons to gloat afterward. First, as a proud Wizards executive: "In terms of what we all envisioned, in putting this team together, tonight it worked perfectly."
Second, as player, when he was reminded that old friend and Chicago native Antoine Walker plays for the Celtics: "I can go back to Chicago with some bragging rights."