Magic Johnson and Larry Bird prevented Michael Jordan from retiring in 1992
In Episode 7 of ESPN’s The Last Dance docuseries, author Mark Vancil revealed that Jordan told him he wanted to retire in the summer of 1992 and play baseball but couldn’t because Bird and Magic never won three championships in a row. The Bulls won the 1991 and 1992 titles, and Jordan wanted to win the 1993 championship so he could upstage Bird and Magic.
“I had sat with him a year earlier, and he told me what he was gonna do,” Vancil said. “It was the summer of ’92, and it’s the Dream Team summer. You could tell he was really tired, as tired as he looked and as beat up as he looked. I said, ‘So, what are you gonna do?’ There’s a long pause, and he said, ‘I’m gonna shock the world. I’m gonna quit and go play baseball.’ And I said, ‘When?’ And he said, ‘Well, I’d do it right now except Bird and Magic never won three in a row, and I gotta do the Olympics, but if it wasn’t for that, I’d be playing this summer.'”
After leading Team USA to the gold medal in 1992, Jordan geared up for the 1992-93 season and was highly motivated to win his third consecutive ring so he could accomplish a feat Bird and Magic never did. His Airness not only led the Bulls to 57 wins in the regular season, but he also won his seventh straight scoring title and got the best of Charles Barkley on the NBA’s biggest stage.
Michael Jordan led Bulls to ’93 title over Suns
Jordan appeared in 78 games in 1992-93. He averaged 32.6 points, 6.7 rebounds, 5.5 assists, and 2.8 steals while shooting 49.5% from the field. The Bulls were the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs and swept the Atlanta Hawks in the first round and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the conference semifinals.
However, Jordan and the Bulls ran into some trouble in the conference finals. They lost Games 1 and 2 at Madison Square Garden against the New York Knicks, and Black Jesus had to answer questions about his gambling after he went to Atlantic City the night before Game 2.
In classic Jordan fashion, the shooting guard responded to all the outside noise by leading the Bulls to four straight wins. Chicago was once again back in the Finals, and Jordan was four wins away from capturing his third consecutive ring. Barkley and the Phoenix Suns stood in Superman’s way, but the All-Star didn’t have much difficulty with them.
Jordan averaged 41.0 points in the ’93 Finals. The Bulls won the series in six games, putting Jordan in a class of his own above Magic and Bird. The one-time Defensive Player of the Year had nothing left to prove in the NBA and was content with retiring so he could honor his late father by playing baseball.
MJ played for the Birmingham Barons in 1994
Jordan played 127 games for the Birmingham Barons in 1994. He batted .202 and drove in 51 runs while striking out 114 times. The Bulls great never got called up to MLB.
In 1995, Jordan left the Barons due to the baseball strike. He had no interest in playing with replacement players and returned to Chicago. Jordan began going to the Berto Center to play pick-up games with his former teammates, and he eventually unretired in March 1995.
After getting humbled by the Orlando Magic in the 1995 Eastern Conference semifinals, Jordan won three more championships, three more Finals MVPs, two more regular-season MVPs, and three more scoring titles. He finished his career as the NBA’s all-time leader in points per game and player efficiency rating and won more titles than Bird and Magic.