By RICK GANO, AP Sports Writer
CHICAGO (AP) - As the world's greatest basketball player, Michael Jordan developed a public image for all to see with a down-to-earth personality and huge smile.
Now he's confronting a more private and personal situation in his life. Juanita Jordan, his wife of 12 years, has filed for divorce, citing "irreconcilable differences."
"When you have personal issues, sometimes work is a great avenue to deal with it and move on," Jordan said Tuesday after a practice for the Washington Wizards' game against the Los Angeles Clippers. "Things will work out in the long run."
Juanita Jordan (pictured with Michael, above) is seeking custody of their three children; possession of their "marital residence," a large gated house in suburban Highland Park; an "equitable" share of their marital property; and a "fair and reasonable sum" for temporary and permanent maintenance. Michael Jordan would be granted visitation rights with his children.
Last September, Fortune Magazine estimated Jordan's wealth at $398 million. In his final two seasons with the Chicago Bulls in 1997 and 1998, his salary topped $60 million.
"It is our hope that the media and the public will understand and respect our family's desire and need for privacy during this difficult period in our lives," the couple said in a joint statement released Tuesday by a publicist in agent David Falk's office in Washington.
Experts said the divorce would have little, if any, effect on Jordan's popularity and endorsement potential.
"As we know the circumstances today, there is no impact," said Bob Williams of Burns Sports and Celebrities, a sports marketing company in suburban Evanston. "Divorce has become, unfortunately, a regular occurrence in our society. It doesn't carry the stigma it once did."
Jordan has faced difficult public situations in the past, including gambling allegations and the murder of his father just months before his first retirement in 1993.
The six-page divorce petition, filed Friday, said past attempts at reconciliation have failed and future ones "would be impractical and not in the best interests of the family."
The couple met at a Chicago restaurant during his second season with the Bulls and were married Sept. 2, 1989, in Las Vegas. Their children are Jeffrey, 13, Marcus, 11, and Jasmine, 9.
The petition says Jordan is a "well and able-bodied man who is capable of making suitable provisions for the support" of Juanita Jordan and for the "support and education of the parties' children in a style commensurate" with that enjoyed during the marriage. It says Juanita Jordan lacks the income and assets to support herself and the children.
Michael Jordan cited a desire to spend more time with his family when he retired from the Bulls the first time and again in January 1999, seven months after he led Chicago to its sixth NBA title.
When he retired a second time, Jordan joked that he would help with car pools, and he maintained his home in the Chicago area even when he returned to basketball as a front-office executive with the Wizards last season.
But his decision to make another comeback as a player at age 38 has kept him in Washington most of the time and on the road, away from Chicago.
He will return to Chicago as an opposing player for the first time on Jan. 19.
(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)