The appearance of the most famous All-Star of all was delayed again Saturday when Michael Jordan missed practice with the flu and was listed as questionable for what could be his final All-Star game.
Jordan, the top vote-getter for Sunday's game, was in bed with a 101-degree temperature and an upper respiratory infection, the NBA said.
"He wants to play in the NBA All-Star game but a decision on his status will not be made until Sunday," the league said in a release.
Jordan, the Chicago Bulls star who has said he might retire at the end of the season, skipped media day Friday so he could play golf in Las Vegas with his friend, Charles Barkley. It has been their custom to play hooky on the first day of All-Star weekend for several years and pay the $10,000 fine imposed by the league.
Thousands of fans and media were prepared to besiege Jordan with the usual questions about his future. Now, perhaps he has played his final All-Star game after all.
"He's told us that he's going to do everything possible to play," NBA commissioner David Stern said. "He's been pretty good about living up to those commitments in the past."
NBA spokesman Chris Brienza wouldn't speculate on a possible replacement if Jordan can't play.
Teammates, opponents and his coach, Larry Bird, said they expected Jordan to be on the court at game time. "He'll be here," said Bird, the former Boston Celtics star and All-Star teammate of Jordan.
"He'd have to be rolling around on his death bed," West forward Karl Malone of Utah said. "But I don't think that's going to happen. I think Michael will play."
Jordan arrived in New York Saturday and notified the league that he was ill, Brienza said. NBA physician John Hefferon examined the 34-year-old Jordan and put him on antibiotics.
Bird said Jordan did not call him to say he would miss practice. "Just as I walked on the court, somebody told me," Bird said.
While no one would blame Jordan for avoiding the media crush on purpose, his teammates didn't think that was the case.
"He wouldn't do this if he wasn't sick," Cleveland's Shawn Kemp said. "That's just not like him."
Jordan reiterated recently that he would retire at the end of the season if coach Phil Jackson was not rehired.
"It is totally simple," Jordan said. ``I won't play anywhere else, I won't follow Phil. I will totally retire. That clears up every question. What management is saying, if Phil is out, then this is my last year."
So naturally, this speculation fueled by Jordan was the preeminent topic of conversation at All-Star events.
"Mike will probably play," said Kobe Bryant, the 19-year-old Los Angeles Lakers guard whose matchup with Jordan at Madison Square Garden was so anticipated. "It's in New York, the mecca of basketball, and it might be his last All-Star game. I think if Michael can go, he'll go."
Jordan has enjyed some of the best performances of his remarkable career in New York. He scored 47 points in a 1988 game and set the arena record with 55 in his first game at the Garden following a year off to play minor league baseball.
There also was his inspiring performance while stricken with the flu in Game 5 of the NBA Finals last season in Utah. Dizzy and dehydrated, Jordan scored 38 points as the Bulls beat the Jazz 90-88. They went on to win the series and their fifth title this decade.