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ESPN The Magazine: New Rules
ESPN The Magazine

Three years removed from the court he once dominated, The King is back -- again. And, as always, he’s confident. "I'm not running from nobody," Michael Jordan says, not that anyone ever expected he would. Trouble is, the court has changed. And we're not just talking about the new zone defense rule.

Out West, Jordan's successor as commander in chief, Shaquille O’Neal, and his secretary of offense, Kobe Bryant, are seeking a Lakers three-peat. The Blazers have the talent to challenge L.A., but if ’Sheed is the leader, they’re bound to self-destruct. The Spurs have the well-respected Tim Duncan -- but little in the way of help. Our pick to topple the Lakers: the Kings, guided by Chris Webber and supported by generous foreign aid.

Back East, the Sixers -- with all due respect to A.I. -- look like a one-term wonder. The Bucks now have a Big Four, thanks to the signing of much-needed muscle in Anthony Mason; too bad they still play with only one ball. VC has a stronger supporting cast in Toronto. Cousin Tracy McGrady, though, will end up with bragging rights in Orlando, now that teammate Grant Hill is ready to reestablish himself among the NBA’s elite.

And so next June it will be the Kings vs. the Magic, with the team that’s been more battle-tested the last three years winning in seven.

Right. It’s the season of The King.

But, like the rest of us, he’ll have to pay homage to the Kings.

This article appears in the November 12 issue of ESPN The Magazine.

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