Michael Jordan shocked the sports world in 1993 when he retired from the NBA. The Chicago Bulls icon tragically lost his father in the summer and was ready to move on from basketball since he had no more motivation and challenges to attack.
During the 1994 MLB season, Jordan played for the Birmingham Barons, the Double-A affiliate of the Chicago White Sox. He batted .202, hit three home runs, and drove in 51 runs. Despite never getting called up to the major leagues, Jordan had a lot of fun with the Barons and lived out his childhood dream of playing baseball at a high level.
There was a baseball strike in 1995, so Jordan didn’t play for the Barons. He got the itch to play basketball again and rejoined the Bulls in March. The superstar made his return to the court on March 19 against the Indiana Pacers.
While he was excited to be back in the NBA, Jordan was nervous, embarrassed, and flat-out uncomfortable when he returned to the league for several reasons.
Michael Jordan was awful in his first game back
Jordan had a terrible shooting night against the Pacers in his return to the NBA. He shot 7-of-28 from the field and 0-of-4 from beyond the arc. The Bulls lost by a final score of 103-96, with Jordan scoring 19 points in 43 minutes.
To make matters even worse for the basketball legend, it appeared he wore his shorts backward. However, Bulls equipment manager John Ligmanowski revealed the little NBA symbol on Jordan’s shorts had been sewn onto the back instead of the front.
“I had my shorts on right,” Jordan said. “They just did them wrong. I knew it. I tied them from the front. I knew they weren’t on backward.”
The Bulls faced the Boston Celtics in Jordan’s second game back. That contest was much better for His Airness, who began to find his rhythm after his putrid night versus the Pacers.
Michael Jordan scored 27 points in his second game back and 55 in his fifth
Against the Celtics on March 22, 1995, Jordan poured in 27 points on an efficient 9-of-17 shooting from the field. The Bulls defeated Boston, 124-107, and MJ was just beginning to find his groove.
In his fourth game back versus the Atlanta Hawks, Jordan put up 32 points and hit the game-winning shot at the buzzer. He followed that up with 55 points at Madison Square Garden in his fifth game against the New York Knicks.
Jordan played in 17 games in 1994-95. He averaged 26.9 points, 6.9 rebounds, and 5.3 assists and led the Bulls to a 13-4 record to finish the season. Chicago made the playoffs and defeated the Charlotte Hornets in the first round. However, they lost to the Orlando Magic in the second round in six games. That’s the only postseason series Jordan lost from 1991 to 1998.
Along with being rusty versus the Magic, Jordan was uncomfortable and overwhelmed by all the attention he received from the media and fans. It turns out those feelings began before the Pacers game on March 19.
MJ thought his return was overblown by the media and fans
After his first game back versus the Pacers, Jordan told Craig Sager his return was being overblown by the media and fans. He said he felt embarrassed and uncomfortable when the public compared him to Elvis Presley and God.
“I think it’s a little bit too much and kind of overwhelming,” Jordan said. “I mean, it puts a real big strain on me personally in my life. It’s always great to be respected and admired, but to a point where it exceeds certain living situations, and it’s not that much fun to me. I think it was fun to a certain degree, but it really was kind of embarrassing the way people treated as if I was an Elvis or a God or something, and that’s a very uncomfortable feeling for me.”
The hoopla around Jordan only grew in 1995-96. The MVP led the Bulls to a 72-10 record and the ’96 championship over the Seattle SuperSonics. He finished his Chicago career by winning three straight titles, establishing himself as arguably the greatest player in NBA history.
Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference.