Michael Jordan Retiring From the NBA to Play Baseball Didn’t Surprise Ahmad Rashad: ‘He Wanted to Find a Place Where He Could Play and Really Just Have Fun’

Michael Jordan shocked the sports world in 1993 when he retired from the NBA. He also raised eyebrows in 1994 when he decided to play baseball for the Birmingham Barons.

However, one person wasn’t shocked by what Jordan did, and that was the one and only Ahmad Rashad.

Ahmad Rashad on Michael Jordan: I think he had gotten so tired of the hype and so tired of the media

Rashad is one of Jordan’s closest friends in the world, so he wasn’t stunned like the rest of us when the Chicago Bulls legend walked away from the NBA to play baseball.

“I think he had gotten so tired of the hype and so tired of the media that he wanted to find a place where he could play and really just have fun,” Rashad said in February 1994, via Chicago sports historian Jack M Silverstein.

Jordan guided the Bulls to three straight championships in 1991, 1992, and 1993. After the third title, he was mentally and physically exhausted and had nothing left to prove in the NBA. His father’s tragic murder in the summer of 1993 was the final push he needed to leave basketball for baseball.

Jordan’s father loved baseball and always wanted his son to play in the MLB. After remaining out of the limelight for a few months after retiring from the Bulls, MJ dropped a bombshell in February 1994 by signing a minor league contract with the Chicago White Sox, something Rashad likely knew about before everyone else.

Ahmad Rashad: Michael Jordan’s father always wanted him to play baseball

In Episode 7 of ESPN’s The Last Dance docuseries, Rashad revealed why Jordan chose to play baseball following the murder of his father.

“He loves baseball,” Rashad said. “And his father always wanted him to play baseball. Being away from basketball gave him an opportunity to adjust his life to not having his dad and moving on.”

Jordan’s baseball manager, Terry Francona, said in 2013 that Black Jesus was having a hard time with basketball before retiring. The challenge to be a successful baseball player was evidently what Jordan needed.

“He was having a hard time with basketball,” Francona said. “He said he’d show up to the arena, he’d put his headphones on, he’d play the game, answer the media and leave. To this day, I think for that one year, I think trying to get a hit in Memphis or Birmingham meant as much to him as what the NBA used to.”

Jordan never played in the MLB. However, his batting average was a feat Francona couldn’t fathom.

Terry Francona: I can’t believe he hit .202

Jordan only hit .202 with the Barons, who batted .248 as a team. Even though the national media destroyed the NBA superstar for hitting .202, Francona thought it was impressive.

“I can’t believe he actually hit .202, and he drove in 50 runs,” Francona said in The Last Dance. “We had a lot of good prospects that didn’t drive in 50 runs. In my opinion, with 1,500 at-bats, he’d have found a way to get to the Major League.”

A baseball strike took place in 1995, so Jordan returned to the Bulls. He won three more rings, three more Finals MVPs, three more scoring titles, and two more regular-season MVPs with Chicago.

It’s fascinating to think about how different things could have gone if the baseball strike didn’t occur. We may not get the second three-peat in Chicago since Jordan may not have come back to the Bulls.

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