After guiding the Chicago Bulls to their third straight championship, Michael Jordan shockingly retired from the NBA. The superstar shooting guard’s father was tragically murdered in the summer of 1993, and MJ was mentally and physically exhausted from playing basketball.
In The Last Dance docuseries, Jordan said his father was the only person who knew he would retire after beating the Phoenix Suns in the 1993 Finals. His Airness had no more challenges or motivation left and was done with the NBA.
Although he retired as the best player in the world in 1993, Jordan admitted in 1995 that he lost his sense of who he was, which may have played a significant role in his decision to walk away from the Bulls.
Michael Jordan in 1995: I just got a better sense of who I am as a basketball player
Before the 1995-96 season, Jordan told Cheryl Raye-Stout that he lost his sense of who he was as a basketball player before retiring in 1993. The five-time MVP said stepping away from the game was good for him so he could hit the reset button.
“From a mental aspect, I’m fresher because of time away from the game,” Jordan said. “Time to evaluate certain situations within my life, get rededicated to the game, and see the stages and the levels that it took to get to the level that I was at. I guess I just got a better sense of who I am as a basketball player, which I was kind of losing through all the glamour and all the accolades I was receiving two years ago. I’m ready to earn those stripes back.”
There’s a reason Jordan said in The Last Dance that he was at peace with his decision to retire in 1993. After all, he had accomplished just about everything an NBA player dreams of in a nine-year span.
Michael Jordan’s résumé after nine years was spectacular
From 1984-85 to 1992-93, Jordan averaged 32.3 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 5.9 assists for the Bulls. He won three MVPs, seven scoring titles, one Defensive Player of the Year Award, three championships, and three Finals MVPs.
In Episode 7 of The Last Dance, Jordan explained why he retired despite being on top of the basketball world.
“At that time, we were coming off of three championships,” Jordan said. “I fulfilled my responsibility to the city, to the Bulls, to my teammates. When I told Phil [Jackson], I said, ‘Look, I’m about done. I have no more challenges. I have no more motivation.’ I was done. I was at peace with that decision. Totally, 100%. You know, I felt ready.”
Jordan returned to the Bulls near the end of the 1994-95 season following his baseball stint. He got his hunger back for the game and was ready to reclaim his throne.
Bulls won three straight titles
The Bulls lost to the Orlando Magic in the 1995 Eastern Conference semifinals, Jordan’s only postseason series loss from 1991 to 1998. The Hall of Famer used that setback as fuel during the summer of 1995 and destroyed the league from 1995-96 to 1997-98.
Chicago won three straight rings in 1996, 1997, and 1998. Jordan won MVP in 1996 and 1998 and three consecutive scoring titles to finish his career with 10. He’s the NBA’s all-time leader in points per game (30.1).
Jordan went a perfect 6-0 in the Finals with the Bulls. He won all six Finals MVPs and never had to play in a Game 7. Although some pundits believe Chicago could have won eight rings in a row if Jordan didn’t retire, the three-time steals champion clearly needed a break to recharge mentally and physically.