No two words resonate as profoundly for basketball lovers than these very words spoken by Michael Jordan on March 18th, 1995. As a sports crazed 6 year old, I vividly remember how big a deal Michael Jordan’s return to basketball was. His baseball hiatus had gravely hurt the NBA and its ratings. The 1994 NBA Finals between the New York Knicks and Houston Rockets was arguably the lowest rated Finals in recent memory. There were bonafide stars in the NBA; Shaquille O’Neal, Penny Hardaway, David Robinson, Reggie Miller, Patrick Ewing & John Starks to name a few. However, none of these players could firmly grip the torch as strongly as MJ. Michael Jordan
“When I come back like Jordan wearing the 4-5”
Air Jordan X’s on his feet, 45 on his back, many of us wondered if Mike still had it. That Double-Nickel (55 Points) in Madison Square Garden eradicated those doubts fairly quickly. Those 17 games in 1995 were all must see TV. Jordan would lead the Bulls to victories in 13 of his 17 games back. The basketball god was back in full effect. 26.9 PPG fresh off retirement is just plain silly. The last time MJ had graced the hardwood, he was carrying the Larry O’Brien trophy out of Phoenix, fresh off of an unimaginable three-peat. The Bulls had had a very good year in 1994 in Jordan’s absence led by All-Star Game MVP Scottie Pippen. A heartbreaking Game 7 loss to the rival Knicks in the Eastern Conference semifinals had many fans believing that Jordan’s comeback would be a foregone formality that the Bulls would win title #4. A first round beatdown of the upstart Charlotte Hornets was the only proof we needed that the Bulls were on their way.
Then the unthinkable happened. Jordan’s suit of armor was cracked by the Orlando Magic. MJ would even switch back to that iconic 23, but to no avail. Nick Anderson broke all of our hearts when he showed the world that our Superman was mortal. At least for one series. That Orlando Magic Eastern Conference Semi-Finals in 1995 was indeed the last Playoff Series Michael Jordan’s Bulls would lose.
20 Years later I still get goosebumps thinking back on the first time I saw the words “I’m Back” flash across my television screen. Without the return there is no Flu Game, No Last Shot in Utah… There’s no 72 Win Season without the return. There’s no Space Jam without the return. Better yet there’s no Wizards Jordan taking the youngns to school as an athletic senior citizen. For those of us who lived through that moment in time, our emotions are as intense now as they were on first account.
Thank you MJ for all of the memories.