Michael Jordan retired from basketball on Oct. 6, 1993. It was stunning. Hard to process. The Chicago Bulls superstar was riding a three-peat and in his prime at the age of 30. Anyone who has seen Space Jam knows what happened next. He tried to follow in his father's baseball footsteps and suited up for the Birmingham Barons, a minor league affiliate of the Chicago White Sox. While golfing with Bill Murray and Larry Bird, he was sucked into a cartoon dimension and forced to play a game of hoops for the fate of the Looney Tunes.
OK, that last part is taking some creative license.
Jordan suited up in 127 games, hitting .202 and struggling to find any type of power. People were very interested, but way more interested in watching him play basketball, the sport he was good at. His itch scratched (or as conspiracy theorists claim, his time served), the great one decided to step back into the breach.
On March 18, 1995 Jordan announced the news to the world via a fax sent to local and national outlets. There was no Twitter or Players' Tribune back then. America Online ruled online. His attorney and business manager, David Falk, drafted up a few versions of the announcements but eventually the player himself went for brevity.
WASHINGTON, DC. (March 18, 1995) - The following statement was released today by Michael Jordan, through his personal attorney and business manager David B. Falk, Chairman of Falk Associates Management Enterprises, Inc. ("FAME") located in Washington, D.C., in response to questions about his future career plans:
"I'm Back" would become a catchphrase and a Nike campaign.
The news came on a Saturday. Jordan would visit the Bulls' practice facility later in the day. The team was due to play the Pacers in Indianapolis the next day. The return was expedited. Some 350 media requests came in overnight.
There was great mystery surrounding what he would look like after a nearly 18-month hiatus. Wearing No. 45 because his 23 had been retired, Jordan stepped back onto the court in front of 35 million people in an NBC game. The magic was still there as he scored 19 points and added six rebounds and six assists in an overtime loss.
You know the rest. Jordan went on to win three more titles. Faxing became less fashionable. Space Jam made a zillion dollars in merchandising. I'm Back lived in infamy.