If there had been an internet, he would have broken it. If Twitter had existed back in the day, he would have crashed the entire site. But all Jordan had at his disposal on March 18, 1995, was a simple fax machine, and he used it to announce not only to the sports universe, but the world: “I’m back.”His Airness left the game on top with three straight NBA titles and NBA Finals MVPs, three MVP awards, six All-Defensive team awards, seven first-team All-NBA selections and a record-tying seven straight scoring titles.
Rumors about Jordan’s return began after an innocuous video session and a pair of practices with the team. This created a Jordan watch in the U.S. and internationally. What made the possibility of Jordan returning even more enticing was that he was coming back to the game in his prime essentially — almost a month after his 32nd birthday.
Rosterwise, Jordan returned to Scottie Pippen and B.J. Armstrong, but in the nearly two years since he last played with the team, center Bill Cartwright and forward Horace Grant had all departed. The new supporting cast included Steve Kerr, Toni Kukoc, Pete Myers and Bill Wennington.
Chicago was traveling to Indianapolis the very next day to play the Indiana Pacers, and in his return Jordan decided to play with the No. 45, which he played with in baseball, instead of his hallowed No. 23. Even though the Bulls were only three games above .500 when Jordan decided to come back to basketball, Las Vegas bettors decided the team now had 5-1 odds of winning the title instead of the 40-1 odds the team started out with before the announcement.
That night against the Pacers, Jordan had 19 points on 7-of-28 shooting, along with six assists, six rebounds and three steals. Later during his packed postgame press conference, Smith sensed that he wasn't in awe of the whole spectacle that he had created; just disappointed that he couldn't help the team more in the loss.
While there were some doubters in that media room—just like when he started his baseball journey—there was a moment of truth addressing those same reporters.
"The day he announced he was retiring, someone asked if it was because of the pressure from the media," Falk said. "I remember distinctly he said, 'I would never let you put your foot up my back and push me out the door.' So there was no pressure to leave, there was no pressure to come back. He did it because it was what was in his heart." And he proved them wrong, repeating another 3-peat and claiming his spot as the greatest of all time.