This Day In Hoops History: Michael Jordan returns to the NBA (for the first time)
It started 26 years ago yesterday, with a fax (remember those?) and a two-word statement.
The next day, on March 19, 1995, after a year of riding the bus with the Birmingham Barons minor league baseball team, His Airness returned to his natural habitat: the hardwood.
Michael Jordan came out of his first retirement and pulled on that familiar Chicago Bulls uniform to take on the Indiana Pacers on the road.
But there was something just a little bit different this time around: He was wearing number 45.
The Bulls had already hung the number 23 from the rafters at Chicago Stadium, and Jordan himself said he didn’t want to wear his old number because his late father wasn’t there to see him play in it.
Instead he chose 45, the number he wore on the baseball diamond as a child growing up in North Carolina as well as during that 1994 season. He also wore the Air Jordan 10 for the first time, after it released during his hiatus.
Jordan’s return to basketball filled every seat at Market Square Arena in Indianapolis, and Pete Myers — who filled in for Jordan at shooting guard during his absence — said the atmosphere felt like an NBA Finals game.
His performance wasn’t exactly GOAT-like (by his own standards, at least): MJ put up 19 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists and 3 steals on 25% shooting from the field in a seven-point loss.
Longtime Jordan trainer Tim Grover attributes Jordan’s “struggles” to the legendary hooper having built up different muscles during his time in baseball, which affected his shooting arc and his elevation.
And thanks to the miracles of modern technology, you can watch the whole game below.
Jordan didn’t wear the number 45 for long. During the 1994-95 Playoffs, in Game One of the Eastern Conference Semifinals against Orlando, MJ put up an uninspired performance in a losing effort.
Nick Anderson, a Chicago native playing on the Magic, told the media “Number 45 is not Number 23.”
If there’s anything you don’t need to give Mike, it’s motivation to crush you on the court.
Jordan came out wearing his old number 23 and put up 38 and 40 points in the next two games, and while the Bulls eventually lost the series, they wouldn’t lose another series in the playoffs throughout their second championship threepeat.
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