Jordan, who walked away from basketball after winning his third straight championship, needed a break since he was mentally and physically exhausted. The 10-time scoring champion didn’t just wake up one day and decide to retire either. In fact, MJ told his Bulls teammates throughout the 1992-93 season that he would retire after the campaign ended.
Michael Jordan told Bulls players during 1992-93 season about his retirement plans, but no one believed him
Jordan revealed to author Melissa Isaacson in her 1994 book Transition Game that he told his Bulls teammates multiple times he would retire following the 1992-93 season. However, none of His Airness’ teammates believed him (h/t Chicago sports historian Jack M Silverstein).
“We’d have a couple of beers after the game, and they’d be complaining about this or that, pointing fingers as they liked to do,” Jordan said. “And I’d say, ‘Man, you don’t know how good you have it. You watch, I’m not going to be around here much longer. I think this is going to be my last year.’ And they’d say, ‘Sure MJ, sure.’ I kept saying it. Not once, not twice, but three or four times. I could sense they didn’t believe me. ‘Sure, MJ, you’re either pissed off, or you’ve been drinking.’ “
Bulls players likely didn’t believe Jordan since he was on top of the basketball world and one of the most famous people worldwide. However, there was one player who saw that Superman was “tired.”
John Paxson: Michael Jordan was tired after third title
“Here’s the thing. I think when we won the third championship, being around him, there was more like relief than true joy,” Paxson said. “You know like, it’s over, you know? He was tired.”
From 1984-85 to 1992-93, Jordan played in 667 regular-season games and 111 playoff games. He won three MVPs, seven scoring titles, one Defensive Player of the Year Award, three championships, and three Finals MVPs.
Jordan not only was the face of the NBA, but he also had no privacy or free time off the court since he had endorsement obligations and couldn’t go out in public without getting mobbed by fans. Despite being in the prime of his career, the UNC product had no regrets retiring in 1993 since he had no more motivation to play at the highest level.
MJ: I have no more challenges, I have no more motivation
To this day, people can’t understand why Jordan walked away in 1993. The Hall of Famer tried his best to explain his thought process in Episode 7 of The Last Dance.
“At that time, we were coming off of three championships. I fulfilled my responsibility to the city, to the Bulls, to my teammates,” Jordan said. “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.”
Four months and one day after his retirement, Jordan signed a minor league contract with the Chicago White Sox. He batted .202 for the Birmingham Barons in 1994 but never got called up to the White Sox.
Jordan made his grand return to the Bulls in 1995 and won three more championships, three more Finals MVPs, three more scoring titles, and two more MVPs. It turns out playing baseball and being away from the NBA was the reset button he needed.