What we’re gonna do right here is go back. Waaay back. Back into time.
Each Friday, SiriusXM will help you reminisce, as we hop into a time machine and relive the great sports moments of the past. Both on the hardwood and off of it, we’ll try to bring you some interesting tidbits from back in the day that you may not have known.
It’s impossible to consider in this climate of constant distraction that a story could dominate an entire sports league for a day, let alone the entire sports media world, but Michael Jordan’s return on March 18th, 1995 was prominent enough to blot out the sun and not just for a day, but for days. The return of His Airness eclipsed the day’s results from the NCAA tournament; MLB teams at Spring Training kept practicing, but who was paying attention? MJ’s famous two-word fax of “I’m back,” delivered to the media on a Saturday no less, sent shock waves throughout the sports world long before hashtags were more than anything you’d see in a phone book. ESPN’s news crawl was flooded with the news, CNN’s too. NBA teams who were hoping to vie for rings in the years to come surely collectively uttered “Aww, crap.” at the news that Jordan was back.
In his first game back from his self-imposed, baseball exile/chasing a dream, Jordan’s game, for the first time in years, was matched or outsized by the hype. He lost at Market Square Garden to the ornery Reggie Miller-led Indiana Pacers. He “only” scored 19 points (but also dropped six dimes, nabbed six rebounds and for good measure picked up three steals.) Still, had the game passed him by? He had bulked up significantly for baseball, had he lost a step? Psyche!* NOT!* After his pedestrian-by-only-his-standards game against the Pacers, Jordan warmed up. He hung 27 at the legendary Boston Garden in a Bulls win. Two nights later, in a homecoming, he scored 21 in a loss to the Orlando Magic. The Bulls would lose only twice more in the regular season. The next night in Atlanta, Jordan daggered the Hawks with a game-winner on his way to 32. The next game out at Madison Square Garden against the rival New York Knicks, a mere ten days after announcing his return, Michael did Michael things on his way to 55 points.
Famously, Michael Jordan sported the 45 jersey throughout his return. The reason was simple, his return was so unexpected that neither the Bulls, nor the NBA were prepared to “unretire” his legendary 23. In a ceremony on Opening Night, with MJ in a suit, and Scottie Pippen as the newly christened leader of the Chicago Bulls, the Bulls hung 2-3 up from the rafters in an homage to the incredible run His Airness had delivered. 45 was the number Jordan had worn during his stint on the minor league Birmingham Barons baseball squad and he thought it the most appropriate digit to rock in his on-court return.
All of that changed once the Bulls faced the Orlando Magic in the Eastern Conference’s semifinals. In Game One of the series, Orlando’s Nick Anderson famously stripped 45 in the closing seconds, leading to an Orlando fast break that gave the Magic the win. It was a lapse by MJ and a great play by Anderson. Following the game though, Anderson poked the tiger stating Jordan “didn’t look like the old Michael Jordan” and that “No. 45 doesn’t explode like No. 23 used to.” Ever the hyper-competitive athlete and trash-talker, Jordan switched back to “23” for the next game and the remainder of the series. The NBA fined the Bulls for the move, but the message was clear. MJ subsequently dropped 38 and 40 points in the next two games with Anderson left primarily trying to take his foot from out of his mouth.
Of course, Orlando did wind up winning the series and went on to lose to the Houston Rockets in the NBA Finals. Still, it was unmistakably apparent that this was still Michael Jordan’s league and the rest of the NBA was on notice. The Bulls would win another three-straight NBA titles beginning with the very next season and also reset innumerable NBA records that now, 20 years later, the Golden State Warriors are beginning to break. Michael Jordan, of course, remains the standard that all NBA greats are compared to. He remains the G.O.A.T and Nick Anderson remains a footnote to a Michael Jordan trivia question.
That’s so 90s!
The Bulls weren’t the only thing that was red-hot in the 1990s. Here’s a rundown of a few things that were straight-bangin’ in March of 1995.
Billboard top tunes in March of 1995:
- Madonna – Take A Bow
- TLC – Creep
- Soul For Real – Candy Rain
- TLC – Red Light Special
- Brandy – Baby
- Sheryl Crow – Strong Enough
- Des’ree – You Gotta Be
- The Notorious B.I.G. – Big Poppa
- Brownstone – If You Love Me
- Boyz II Men – On Bended Knee
Cool food innovations?
- The Starbucks Frappucino debuted in 1995. I’m not a fan, but this damn thing has been on Starbucks’ menu for over 20 years.
- DiGiornio, NOT delivery, debuted in 1995. A better frozen pizza for frat houses everywhere.
Sorry, not sorry?
The Macarena also premiered in 1995, things were cool, but this was not cool. We’re sorry, future generations.
*Psyche! and NOT! were “cool” things that “the kids” used to say in the 1990s. Seriously.
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