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Michael Jordan’s last game in D.C. doesn’t start until 7 p.m., but Chris Sadowitz has been camped outside the MCI Center’s parking garage since 2:45 this afternoon. His brother Jon, on crutches with a broken ankle, has taken a key paparazzi position on top of the ramp wall along with Chris’ 12-year-old son and a couple of Japanese friends. They drove all the way down from Binghamton, N.Y., for the privilege of camping out on the parking ramp in hopes of seeing Jordan en route to the final home game of his professional career.
But Sadowitz and Co. have discovered that, as star-gazing activities go, stalking the Wizards is pretty low-rewardand not just because the team hasn’t made the playoffs in six years. The players have VIP parking in the underground garage, allowing them to avoid even the most minimal contact with fans (unlike the poor dance-team members, who have to drag their suitcases down 6th Street NW).
Even for Jordan’s finale, fewer than 20 people have come to gawk around the garage, mostly Japanese tourists and a smattering of doughy white guys. The only regulars are Aaron Morton and Michael Linder, 12-year-olds from Northeast, and Shey Ramsey, a 22-year-old student at the University of the District of Columbia who comes to the garage before and after every home game, even though she often can’t afford tickets to go inside.
The regulars instruct newcomers to monitor the traffic on 6th Street for sweet, expensive cars; the darker the car windows, the more likely the driver is to be a player. Morton and Linder offer bystanders an oral catalog of who drives what. Jerry Stackhouse sometimes drives a custom-made Bentley, Charles Oakley favors a Ferrari, and injured power forward Etan Thomas has the lamest ride, a Grand Cherokee. Jordan could be in almost anything, from a Range Rover to a Benz to an Aston Martin.
As the sun begins to set without a Jordan sighting, Chris starts to question their choice of afternoon entertainment. “I wonder if any human is worth this,” he mutters. The group watches police dogs hurl themselves at the inside of a patrol-car window.
Suddenly, a sleek blue Aston Martin with pitch-black windows and an “MJ5” license plate squeals into the parking lot. As it nears the fans, it speeds up andwhoosh!is gone so fast that even the most devoted groupie has no time to snap a souvenir shot.
“Was that him?” Chris asks his brother.
“Yeah, that was him,” Jon says.
Morton and Linder aren’t too impressed with the man everyone is here to see. “He don’t be trying to talk to nobody or get no autographs,” says Linder, shaking his head. “He speeds up!”
“Wave or something,” Morton says.
The crowd is heartened later when swingman Bryon Russell arrives in a black Escalade with the stereo booming. His windows are down and he stops, shakes hands with the security guard, and mugs a little for the fans. He is followed in quick succession by another wave of anonymous cars. A BMW that appears to contain Jerry Stackhouse pulls up, prompting Ramsey to yell, “Jerry, we love you!” Stackhouseif it is Stackhouseignores her as he drives by. Stephanie Mencimer