Michael Jordan returned to the NBA in 1995 after a one-year retirement without his famous No. 23 jersey.
As Jordan explained in the most recent episode of the ESPN docu-series The Last Dance, it was the death of his father that led to the change. James Jordan was killed as he napped in his car on a highway in July 1993, shot to death in what police would later describe as a botched robbery.
Jordan, who announced his retirement just before the start of the 1993-94 season, weeks after his father’s murder said in a preview of the episode that he didn’t feel right wearing the jersey his father had seen him in.
“I didn’t want to go to 23 because my father wasn’t there to watch me, and I felt it was a new beginning,” Jordan said in an interview, adding that he picked the No. 45 because it was the first jersey that he had worn in high school.
Jordan had also worn the No. 45 during his one year trying his hand at baseball in the farm system of the Chicago White Sox. The NBA legend had previously said that the decision to pursue a baseball career had also been inspired by his late father.
“It began as my father’s idea,” the Bulls legend told The New York Times.
“We had seen Bo Jackson and Deion Sanders try two sports and my father had said that he felt I could have made it in baseball, too. He said, ‘You’ve got the skills.’ He thought I had proved everything I could in basketball, and that I might want to give baseball a shot.”
While it was the memory of his father that led him to abandon the No. 23, it was a famous taunt from an opponent that prompted Jordan to bring it back.
As SI.com recalled, Jordan wore the No. 45 for the final 17 games of the regular season in the 1994-95 season, leading the Bulls to a 13-4 record during that time and ultimately a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals against the Orlando Magic. In Game 1, Jordan had a late turnover that led to the game-winning fast-break dunk.
After the game, Magic guard Nick Anderson, who had stolen the ball, took a shot at the Bulls legend’s new number.
“No. 45 doesn’t explode like No. 23 used to,” Anderson told reporters after the game.
“No. 45 is not No. 23. I couldn’t have done that to No. 23.”
Jordan retired the No. 45 jersey after that game, switching to No. 23 for the next game and wearing it for the rest of his career.