NBA HISTORY

26 Years Ago: Jordan’s Return Flight

Looking back on the legend’s shocking comeback

Bulls Pacers 1995
Bulls Pacers 1995
Photo courtesy of Flickr user alirodriguezb26

The Setup

As my “F” riddled senior year at Glenville High School stretched into its final few months, I was one distracted guy.

Distracted from even caring about my piss poor academic performance and the nearly guaranteed first failure of a grade in my entire school career.

This was March 1995 and the guy who was dominating television and my thoughts practically 24/7 was “The Brentwood Slasher.”

Yes, O.J.

But out of nowhere, I started hearing vague reports on television and radio that Air Jordan, as in the retired Michael Jordan was considering a return to pro basketball!!!

And ditching his minor league baseball sojourn!

It was all confirmed on March 18th with his now historic fax, which simply read:

“I’M BACK.”

A Personal Dream Come True

26 years ago today, that man — that sports icon, that virtuoso of basketball excellence RETURNED TO THE COURT for the first time in 21 months. ❤️

Nothing about MJ’s pedestrian performance in Market Square Arena that Sunday afternoon mattered to me more than his very surprising return to the NBA.

I had been a Jordan obsessive for several years. I lived and died with each Chicago Bulls win and loss, as he piloted the team (with Scottie Pippen) as they evolved from being Pistons punching bags in 1990, to the 3-time NBA world champions the following three years.

Then, he retired. And it was a miserable 1994 and early ’95 without him in the league.

A Welcomed Distraction From O.J.

Fortunately for me, Simpson’s murderous outing in June ’94 gave me something salacious to focus my attention on because his preliminary hearing and inevitable criminal trial had practically become a television series.

In Michael’s first game back, March 19, 1995, he began the game in front of a raucous crowd clad in his trademark red Bulls road uniform trimmed in black and white.

But his shorts were on backward, his uniform number was 45, which we had NEVER seen him wear on the hardwood, and he rocked the 10th edition of his world-famous Air Jordan sneakers.

We last saw him in the 8th edition of the Air Jordan in Game 6 of the ’93 NBA finals.

The energy, anticipation, and electricity in the building that day in Indy were substantial and I was a doppelgänger for a giddy school girl watching on television at home.

For the next couple hours or so, MJ missed easy layups, clanged what were normally his bread and butter jumpers, and looked more out of sync than a choir without a conductor.

Chicago, sporting a mediocre 34–31 record entering the game, looked pathetic much of that season. Pippen wanted to be traded, and nothing about their vibe suggested that they’d make it past round 1 of the playoffs.

With Michael back in tow, EVERYTHING felt possible. Yes, he was 32 years of age, which is considered a declining skills age in sports.

But his unique brand of searing competitiveness and still formidable talent gave him a peerless edge over others.

A Rough Outing For An Icon

Pippen led the Bulls with 31 points, ultimately being the most reliable Bull to match baskets and stamina with Pacers star villain Reggie Miller, who netted 28.

MJ? He managed to miss an abysmal 21 shots while scoring 19 points, which was more than 13 points BELOW his career average coming in.

He did play a solid floor game with 6 rebounds, 6 assists, and 3 steals in 43 grueling minutes.

During a late-game floor tangle with Miller, Jordan suffered cramping and before long, the Pacers won, 103–96 in overtime.

MJ Sparked His Team’s Regular Season Finish

I cannot overstate how happy I was having Michael Jordan back in the NBA.

No more minor league baseball.

No more boring Bulls games.

When I showed a guy in school the newspaper sports section a few days before Michael returned, the guy wondered why he’d come back to the Bulls as opposed to a better team.

I was quite happy that he chose the franchise with which he grew into an international supernova and triple-time champion.

Jordan’s return sparked a sterling 13–3 Bulls finish to the regular season after the Pacers' loss, and the team had great momentum going into the postseason.

Frustrating End to That Surprise Season

To my dismay, the Bulls got bounced out of the playoffs about two months after MJ’s return at the hands of the supercharged Shaq/Penny-led Orlando Magic.

Yes, the Bulls wound up winning three more NBA titles beginning the following season, but that’s not the point here.

What mattered first was the fact that, 26 years ago today, the greatest hoopster in the universe returned to his stage…

…and gave a failing 12th grader something besides O.J. Simpson to root for!

Personal Development Writer | Deante Unlimited podcast, Host | Deante: Under Construction web series, Star | Deante Young Enterprises, Chief Creative Architect

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