On March 19th, 1995, one day after his famous ‘I’m back’ fax, Michael Jordan played in his ‘return game’ against the Indiana Pacers. Before that, Jordan played his last game for the Chicago Bulls in Game 6 of the 1993 Finals against the Phoenix Suns.
At the time, there were a lot of questions surrounding Jordan’s return. Ahmad Rashad from NBC reported that Michel came to the Pacers facility around 8.30 in the morning to burn some of that nervous energy. Rashad added that Michael had some concerns, mainly about his conditioning. Jordan was fit enough to play in practice, but it’s difficult to simulate game night conditions, which bothered him. He wasn’t exactly sure what can he do on the court after being absent from the game of basketball for so long.
One other issue was brought up before the game – how will the players adapt to Jordan’s game and vice versa. Michael only had a couple of full training sessions with the team, and some reporters even stated that he could come off the bench. But Phil Jackson knew better. Of course, he played MJ from the start.
The atmosphere in the Market Square Arena was electrified, and the eyes of probably the whole world were on this game in the Pacers’ dome. The crowd in the arena was so hyped about MJ that the announcer made one of the quickest and most boring introductions ever so that the home team wouldn’t be overshadowed. Despite that, the Indiana crowd loudly cheered when Michael (with his number 45 on the back) stepped on the floor.
Jordan’s first points came from the free-throw line, and it took him six whole minutes to sink his first field goal attempt. It was a mid-range jumper on the left side over Reggie Miller. Despite hitting that jumper, Jordan struggled with his shooting throughout the whole game. The Pacers were wise enough to crowd the paint, which led to two things: first, Michael had to shoot more than he wanted to, and second, he couldn’t drive to the basket. Still, Jordan delivered one of his trademark moves. He stripped the ball from Rik Smits, ran the ball downcourt, and scored after jumping almost from the free-throw line.
As far as the game goes, the Bulls eventually lost 96-103 in overtime. Jordan recorded 19 points with 7/28 shooting from the floor and 0/4 from deep. He added six rebounds, six assists, and three steals in 43 minutes played. Scottie Pippen had 31 points, and Miller led the Pacers with 28 points.
The game was televised by NBC and had an estimated 35 million viewers.