Not only did Jordan pay attention to what his Bulls were doing, but he also contacted his friends in the NBA to pick their brains on some of the younger stars in the league just in case he decided to unretire.
Whatever tidbits Jordan received from his friends didn’t work at first. However, they paid dividends in the long run.
Michael Jordan talked to B.J. Armstrong and Joe Dumars while playing baseball
According to Chicago sports historian Jack M Silverstein, Jordan spoke to B.J. Armstrong and Joe Dumars to pick their brains on the young NBA stars while he played for the Birmingham Barons. Sam Smith’s Second Coming quotes Black Jesus talking to reporters in Birmingham during the spring of 1994 about the possibility of returning to the NBA.
“Yes, once in a while, I think, ‘What if I was still there?’ But it’s more in the context of the young guys,” Jordan said. “I’ve proved my point with the Barkleys and Drexlers. It would have to be a shot at the Hardaways and the Webbers. I’d like to teach those rookies a lesson.”
When he retired from the NBA in 1993, Jordan didn’t think he would come back. However, the baseball strike in 1995 changed everything.
Baseball strike changed things for Michael Jordan
The baseball strike in 1995 may be the only reason Jordan came back to the Bulls. The UNC product didn’t want to play with replacement players, and since he had nothing to do, MJ began to get his basketball itch back.
“If it wasn’t for the baseball strike,” Curtis Polk — a former colleague of Jordan’s agent David Falk — told Bleacher Report, “I’m not sure he would’ve come back (to basketball) at that time, or ever.”
Jordan returned to the NBA on March 19, 1995. He struggled mightily against the Indiana Pacers, shooting only 25.0% from the field in a 103-96 loss. However, the five-time MVP silenced his naysayers in his second game back versus the Boston Celtics by scoring 27 points while shooting 52.9%.
Behind Jordan and Scottie Pippen, the Bulls defeated the Charlotte Hornets in the first round of the 1995 playoffs. The Orlando Magic were next up for the Bulls, and they had a talented team, led by Anfernee (Penny) Hardaway, Shaquille O’Neal, and Horace Grant.
The Magic beat the Bulls in six games, sending Jordan home. Superman was devastated his comeback tour didn’t end in a championship. However, he used the loss to Orlando as fuel and made sure to destroy Hardaway, O’Neal, and Grant for eliminating him.
Bulls swept Magic in ’96 ECF
Jordan led the Bulls to 72 wins in 1995-96. The Magic were his opponent in the 1996 Eastern Conference Finals, and Air Jordan couldn’t wait to get his revenge.
The Bulls swept the Magic, with Jordan averaging 29.5 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 4.8 assists. They then defeated the Seattle SuperSonics in the ’96 Finals to complete Jordan’s vengeance season.
Jordan finished his Bulls career by winning three straight championships, three straight Finals MVPs, and three straight scoring titles. While losing to Orlando certainly hurt, the Hall of Famer used that setback as motivation to get back to the mountain top.