It wasn’t just adults who were devastated when Michael Jordan shocked the sports world by retiring from the NBA in 1993. Children in cities all over the country were sad to see the Chicago Bulls superstar walk away from basketball since he was a role model and the biggest attraction in sports.
Jordan’s retirement was such a big story that newspaper editors assigned a writer to speak to children about how unhappy they were that MJ was retiring. No matter what city they lived in, kids were upset to see Superman leave the NBA.
Kids were dejected after Michael Jordan retired
According to Chicago sports historian Jack M Silverstein, when the Associated Press asked sports media members to vote for the AP Sports Story of the Year in 1993, the surprise retirement of Jordan was the easy choice. Black Jesus’ retirement received 874 points. Meanwhile, Monica Seles getting stabbed in court by a spectator came in second place (528).
Eager to sell papers, newspaper editors in every significant city told their writers to ask children how they felt about Jordan retiring. As expected, kids in Chicago were stunned, but even children in Boston, Detroit, and New York City were heartbroken.
“I’m mad because that’s the best basketball player. When I saw my boy Michael Jordan, I just pushed the Pistons aside,” Tyran Hatfield, 11, Detroit. “My friend told me at school. I thought he was lying. (He quit) because there was too much emotional stress because his father got killed. While playing, he was thinking about his father. After his father’s death, he was done because of stress,” Ryan Willard, 12, Boston. “I was astounded. I just went to my bed and hoped it was a nightmare, but when I woke up, it was real,” Debbie Solomon, 17, New York City.
Jordan retired because he no longer had anything to prove and lost his hunger to play. He also tragically lost his father a few months after winning his third championship.
Michael Jordan’s dad was murdered
Jordan’s father, James, was murdered in the summer of 1993. In Episode 7 of ESPN’s The Last Dance docuseries, the six-time champion said his father was the only person who knew he would retire after winning the championship in 1993.
“After we won the championship, I sat in the gym with my father. In the back of my mind, I knew that was probably my last game, and no one really knew except for my father and myself,” Jordan said. “He was my rock. We were very close. He constantly gave me advice. I remember in ninth grade, I got suspended three times in one year, and my father pulled me aside that summer and said, ‘Look, you don’t look like you’re headed in the right direction. You wanna go about doing all this mischievous stuff, you can forget sports.’ That’s all I needed to hear. From that point on, it was like tunnel vision, and I never got in trouble from that point on.”
To honor his father, Jordan played baseball in 1994 for the Birmingham Barons. Although he never made it to the MLB, the UNC product enjoyed his time in the minors and was ready to play again in 1995. However, a baseball strike took place, and Jordan had no interest in playing with replacement players.
Remember those children who were down in 1993 when Jordan retired? Well, they were likely thrilled in March 1995.
MJ returned to the NBA
Jordan delighted sports fans when he unretired on March 18, 1995. He played in 17 games to close out the 1994-95 season and averaged 26.9 points. However, the Bulls lost to the Orlando Magic in the 1995 Eastern Conference semifinals.
His Airness once again made children happy by starring in Space Jam, a movie that featured the Looney Tunes. He then won three straight championships and three straight Finals MVPs from 1995-96 to 1997-98 to finish his Bulls career.
Jordan couldn’t please everyone while he was in the limelight, which is why he said in The Last Dance that he didn’t like to view himself as a role model. Being in the public eye isn’t easy since you have no privacy, and everything you say and do is analyzed and talked about.
With that said, Jordan deserves credit for never getting in trouble with the law and being a positive force in his community.