On This Day in 1994: Chicago Bulls retire Michael Jordan's number 23

On this day, 25 years ago, NBA team Chicago Bulls retired jersey number 23 of its legendary player Michael Jordan.

Published : Nov 01, 2019 14:47 IST

Michael Jordan celebrates with the NBA trophy after his side Chicago Bulls beat the Portland Trail Blazers 4-2 in the 1992 NBA Finals.
Michael Jordan celebrates with the NBA trophy after his side Chicago Bulls beat the Portland Trail Blazers 4-2 in the 1992 NBA Finals.

Michael Jordan celebrates with the NBA trophy after his side Chicago Bulls beat the Portland Trail Blazers 4-2 in the 1992 NBA Finals.

'Retiring a jersey number' is very common in American Sports Leagues. Only if a player attains the status of a legend, will the team he had played for, retire his jersey number. This honourable gesture is done so that no one from that particular team could use the retired number on their jersey in the future.

In any league, a player spending over 10 seasons with a single club or franchise is definitely considered a legend. Considering the National Basketball Association (NBA), Michael 'MJ' Jordan is one such player. Twenty-five years ago, on November 1, NBA club Chicago Bulls retired the jersey number 23 during a two-hour ceremony, honouring one of the greatest stars in the history of basketball.

In 1994, on the same day, the Bulls also erected a bronze sculpture of Jordan known as 'The Spirit' outside its home turf — the United Centre.

What had this six-feet six-inch superstar done at the Chicago-based franchise to be considered a larger than life character on and off the court? With over 900 games for the Bulls, the United States shooting guard led the team to six NBA titles.

In fact, the side from Chicago has made only six finals in total, all during the Jordan era (1984-93 and 1995-98). It completed its first three-peat (three consecutive championship wins) in 1993 and Jordan was the NBA Finals MVP for three straight years, thereby becoming the first player in NBA history to do so. He was the most valuable player in the whole of NBA in 1991 and 1992.

The 56-year-old had retired from the game around late 1993. He then joined the Chicago White Sox, a team owned by Bulls' owner Jerry Reinsdorf, in Minor League Baseball. However, he returned to the Chicago Bulls, which had an average 1993-94 campaign in his absence, towards the middle of the 1994-95 season. The side was having a miserable campaign until the return of its prodigal son. 

Jordan's comeback was considered as one of the greatest in sports' history as the team, from a spot of bother, made the Eastern Conference semifinals, where it lost out to the Orlando Magic. The Chicago star had actually decided to take a new number — 45 —  since his 23 was already retired in 1994. 

The very next season (1995-96), the 'MJ' of old was back in his legendary number 23 outfit. He led his side to an outstanding 72-10 win-loss record in the regular season. This was an all-time NBA record until the 2015-16 season in which the Golden State Warriors went 73-9.

The Bulls completed their second three-peat in 1998 and Jordan, along with former teammate Scottie Pippen, became the only non-Boston Celtics players to win the NBA title six or more times with the same franchise. One half of the deadly duo, Pippen had even lauded Jordan as the backbone of the Bulls back then.

In 1998, Jordan retired for a second time but once again decided to return to the NBA in 2001 with the Washington Wizards, thereby ending his historic association with the Chicago Bulls once and for all. The US star called it quits one final time in 2003.

After his retirement, NBA team Miami Heat also retired its first-ever jersey number— 23 — honouring Michael Jordan for his contributions to the sport. Jordan hadn't played for the Heat during his career and the team's act of retiring his jersey number showed the respect 'MJ' enjoyed from the entire NBA world.

Jordan still holds the record for the most points per game in NBA history. He has also won a record 10 scoring titles in his career (most points per game in a NBA season). He won the NBA rookie of the year award in 1985 and was part of NBA All-star team 14 times, winning three MVP titles in All-Star games.

Years after his last hurrah, Jordan is still considered as the greatest ever in the history of the sport by numerous stars of the game, while most others rate him among the best sportspersons across sport. 'MJ 23' was well and truly a champion of the game.

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