Chicago Bulls legend Michael Jordan shocked the sports world in the summer of 1993 when he retired from the NBA. The superstar shooting guard tragically lost his father to a brutal murder and had no more motivation to play basketball.
During the 1993-94 NBA season, Jordan played baseball for the Birmingham Barons, the Double-A farm team of the Chicago White Sox. However, when he was in Chicago during his off time in 1994, the NBA icon got his basketball fix by playing pickup games with regular players at the downtown Athletic club and destroyed his competition despite not trying his hardest.
Michael Jordan had his way against regular players
Despite not playing during the 1993-94 NBA season, Jordan was still really good at basketball. He was playing around 20 and 30% against the average joe’s and still dominated. After all, this was Black Jesus.
“He’s going about 30%, but that’s only cuz he wants to,” one player who played with Jordan said. “He can go to 100% just like that in a heartbeat. Everything’s there. He’s playin’ with us. He can easily go back tomorrow and play with the best.”
Little did that player know that Jordan would return to the NBA near the end of the 1994-95 season. He sent out the famous “I’m back” fax and made his grand return to the Bulls on March 19, 1995, against the Indiana Pacers.
However, Jordan struggled mightily versus the Pacers and had trouble shooting the ball in the 17 games he played in before the 1995 playoffs started.
Michael Jordan shot only 41.1% from the field in 1994-95
Jordan finished with 19 points in 43 minutes against the Pacers while shooting only 7-of-28 from the field. The five-time MVP, the NBA’s all-time leader in player efficiency rating, shot a career-low 41.1% from the floor in 1994-95, which was expected since he spent the previous year playing baseball.
Vintage Jordan did make a few appearances in 1994-95. In his fourth game back against the Atlanta Hawks, he put up 32 points and hit the game-winning shot at the buzzer. MJ’s most memorable performance of the year took place in the following game against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden. The 10-time scoring champion dropped 55 points and led the Bulls to a two-point win.
Jordan averaged 31.0 points in the Magic series, but he had eight turnovers in Game 1 and six in Game 6. The Bulls lost the series in six games, and His Airness was devastated since Horace Grant — a player he won three rings with — was on the Magic and got hoisted up by his teammates after the series ended.
The only way Jordan could reclaim his throne as the best player in the world was by getting his body back into basketball shape and working on his hoop skills again. Both of those facets took place in the summer of 1995, but not at a place where outsiders predicted.
MJ got back to himself on the set of Space Jam
Jordan was a busy man in the summer of 1995. He not only worked on his basketball game and body, but he also had to film the Space Jam movie.
The Jordan Dome was built on the Space Jam set for the Bulls star to weight train and play basketball. Several NBA players came to the Jordan Dome to play pickup games with Mike, who admitted in The Last Dance docuseries that it was hard to rework his body from a baseball frame to a basketball one.
By the time training camp started in 1995-96, Jordan was in phenomenal shape and ready to demolish the league. He led the Bulls to 72 wins while winning his fourth regular-season MVP. Chicago then defeated the Seattle SuperSonics in the ’96 Finals in six games.
It’s possible that Jordan’s urge to play in the NBA again grew after participating in pickup games with regular players in Chicago in 1994. One thing is certain: Bulls fans were happy that the GOAT came back and won three more rings.
Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference.