One of the most talked-about events of 1995 was the late-season retirement comeback of Michael Jordan to the NBA. In addition, he grabbed attention by wearing 45 rather than the recognisable 23 on his jersey.
Jordan’s comeback, which included significant adjustments, was seen as the most audacious because of his iconic “I’m Back” declaration.
Michael Jordan on why he chose No. 45
When he rejoined the Chicago Bulls, Jordan revealed on “The Last Dance” that he chose the number 45 because he wanted a new beginning after an 18-month absence.
“I didn’t want to wear 23 because I knew my father wasn’t there to watch me, and I felt it was a new beginning and 45 was my first number when I was playing in high school,” he said.
“I was nervous because I hadn’t played competitive in a long time, and I just felt naked because my father wasn’t there. It just seemed so different,” he added.
When Jordan returned to play competitive, high-intensity basketball, it wasn’t the best of starts. In the Bulls’ 103-96 overtime loss to the Indiana Pacers, he finished with 19 points.
Switched back to No. 23
Not that Jordan had poor performances when he wore 45 after his return. He scored 55 points against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden nine days after the Pacers defeat, a performance that became known as the “Double-Nickel Game.” For the remainder of the regular season and the opening round of the playoffs against the Charlotte Hornets, he wore the same number. When Chicago met the Orlando Magic and ex-teammate Horace Grant, everything changed.
Shaquille O’Neal, Penny Hardaway, Nick Anderson, and Grant tightened the screws on the Bulls, who held a 91-90 lead with 22 seconds remaining in Game 1. Jordan’s fumble gave the Magic the victory, and Anderson responded with a cocky retort.
“45 isn’t 23,” he said.
Jordan returned for Game 2 wearing 23, the jersey he wore when he first entered the NBA, and scored 38 points while also grabbing 7 rebounds and dishing out 3 assists to defeat Anderson 104-94. Despite his outstanding performances, the Magic lost the series 4-2. However, it stoked the fire Jordan already had going.