25th Anniversary: Jordan Returns To The NBA, Rocking Number 45

On March 19, 1995, Michael Jordan came out of his 17-month retirement and played in his first NBA game for Chicago since Game 6 of the 1993 Finals against Phoenix.

In front of a charged-up crowd at Indiana’s Market Square Arena, Jordan scored 19 points in 43 minutes, but the host Pacers downed the Bulls in overtime 103-96. The game was televised on NBC and drew a 10.9 national rating and an estimated 35 million viewers, making it the most-watched regular-season game in NBA history.

Michael Jordan Returns:

Wearing No. 45

45 was actually Jordan’s basketball jersey number throughout high school, until his junior year when he played on the varsity team with his older brother Larry–who also wore the number. Michael ended up choosing a number that was half of 45 (22.5), which is how he ended up with 23.

During MJ’s time in Minor League Baseball, he reverted back to 45 because that was the number he wore playing baseball as a kid. He stuck with it when he came back to the NBA for sentimental reasons related to the murder of his father.

“When I came back, I didn’t want to play in the last number that my father had seen me wear,” Jordan wrote. “Because he wasn’t around, I thought of my return as a new beginning.”

The number only lasted Jordan for 22 games. Through fate, Jordan returned to 23 on his 23rd game back in the NBA. What prompted the switch was the ball being stolen from him in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semi-finals by Nick Anderson, which led to the Chicago Bulls losing the game.

In the 1993–94 season, the Bulls, without Jordan, achieved a 55–27 record and lost to the New York Knicks in the second round of the playoffs. The 1994–95 version of the Bulls — a shell of the championship squad of just two years earlier — would fall to Shaq, Penny, and Orlando in the second round of the playoffs with Jordan playing just 17 games.

But No. 45 was back and the following season Jordan would win the 1996 championship, the first of three in a row.

The Bulls led the NBA in points per game (105.20), offensive efficiency (115.2) and defensive efficiency (101.8) and had winning streaks of 13 and 18 games and lost just one playoff game en route to the NBA finals where they recaptured the throne and won the NBA Finals against the Seattle Supersonics in a 4-2 series.