Iconic number #23 was nowhere to be found
The Chicago Bulls traveled to Orlando to face the Magic. Chicago was making the final stop of a six-game road swing that included games in Houston, San Antonio, Los Angeles, Denver, and one night before the Magic, Miami matchup. Chicago entered with a 29-19 record but had lost four of its last five games, while Orlando, at 14-33, had dropped three of four.
The Magic were in the midst of their first season, while the Bulls were under a first-year coach, Phil Jackson. At this point in Jordan’s career, he had already won one Most Valuable Player award and earned five All-Star appearances, including the 1989-90 campaign. He led the league in scoring at 33.6 points per game while playing all 82 regular-season games.
But the famous #23 did miss one game that season, although Jordan did not. On Valentine’s Day, MJ wore No. 12 instead of his iconic number. The sequence of the jersey swap event is not entirely exact, but a few details seem plausible retrospectively.
The Bulls only had number 12
Jordan’s No. 23 jersey was believed to have been stolen on the day of the game. The Bulls did not bring a backup jersey with them, but the team did have a just-in-case # 12 kit bearing no name on the back. Before the game started in pre-game warm-ups, the public announcer said the following surprising statement. “Please note that, for the Bulls, Michael Jordan is wearing number 12 tonight.”
Although Jordan had a fantastic game, Chicago ended up losing this contest. Over 47 minutes, Jordan scored 21 of his 43 shot attempts for a game-high 49 points. Chicago led by double digits in the third quarter, but the Magic – buoyed by 34 points from Terry Catledge, 16 off the bench from Scott Skiles, and a then-franchise high 19 rebounds from Sidney Green – mounted a comeback to force overtime, where they pulled out a 135-129 win.