By Matthew Barajas
Light Post // March 2015
Your greatest Chicago sports memory. Have you ever thought about it?
Without question, there’s plenty of great moments to choose from. The ones when our team hoisted a trophy or Cup at the end of the season are surely memories etched in stone. And although Chicago championships don’t happen as often as we’d like, they still do happen.
As a fan, there’s not a greater feeling than watching your team celebrate like children as they get showered in champagne.
But there’s that one Chicago sports moment that stands out from all the rest. One that not only captivated the city of Chicago, but the entire sports-watching world for weeks.
Two little words changed everything.
After a season and a half of being retired, Michael Jordan returned to the Bulls.
It’s hard to believe it has been 20 years since Jordan’s unforgettable quote. His return to the Bulls in 1995 was one of those unique moments in sports that, when you now look back on, if you got to experience it, you were witness to something truly special...something that will never happen again.
When a player retires, that’s usually it. We don’t expect to see them suit up and play again. So in March of ’95, when the rumors began to swirl about Michael Jordan possibly coming back to play for the Bulls, it didn’t seem real. Jordan was at practice? Why was Jordan at practice? Why the hell would Michael Jordan be practi...wait...do you think? Could it be? Is he really coming back? The level of excitement in Chicago was unreal. As an eleven year old kid in 1995, whose life revolved around nothing else but the Chicago Bulls and Michael Jordan, these rumors were like a 24-hour sugar rush.
This was the only thing people would talk about. Every second of every day. But back then, there was no up-to-the-second information like there is today. The internet was still foreign to many people. There were no posts, no tweets, or instant messaging of any kind. We had to painstakingly wait for the news to come on. Can you imagine having to do that today?
But then we began to see it. Video clips of Jordan driving in and out of the Berto Center. Jordan in a practice jersey on the practice court. Phil Jackson and other players talking about him to reporters. And then, unforgettably, Scottie Pippen on the bench pointing to the Jumpman logo on the bottom of his Air Jordan’s while he motioned his finger, as if to say, “Let’s go, MJ. We’re ready for you!”
All these images had everyone on the edge of their seats. The lead story on every news channel talked about Jordan. All Jordan, all the time. At one point, it no longer was a matter of if he was coming back, but simply when.
Then it happened. On March 18th, 1995, Jordan made his famous two-word announcement, and on March 19th, he played in his first game since retiring. The Bulls would lose in overtime against the Indiana Pacers 103-96. Jordan’s stat line: 19 points on 7/28 shooting, 6 assists, 6 rebounds, and 3 steals.
Had the Bulls won, it would have been icing on the cake. But the game itself didn’t matter. All that mattered was that Jordan was a Bull again. You couldn’t go anywhere without seeing #45 jerseys and hearing about “the comeback.” It was a beautiful thing.
Jordan’s return to basketball was one of those significant moments in sports that was truly unlike anything else. Even before his retirement, he had already transcended the game of basketball to a level that hadn’t been done before. Multiple scoring titles, MVP’s and championships only added to that. To say his retirement at 30 years old was shocking would be an understatement. In his return, Chicago didn’t just get back an amazing athlete. We got back a legend.
The man who led the Bulls to three straight NBA championships, and who many had already considered the greatest player of all-time, decided he wanted another shot at playing. How often does something like that happen? Once.
Without Jordan’s comeback in '95, there is no historic 72-win season in 1996 and there sure as hell is no second Bulls three-peat. Chicago, Michael Jordan spoiled us. I hope you enjoyed every second.
We can talk about the greatest moments in Chicago sports history for hours on end, debating which moment deserves the title as greatest ever. The fun part about having that conversation is that no one will ever be right or wrong. But at the end of the day, championships will always top the list. For many people, nothing will beat the ’85 Bears. To others, maybe it’s an improbable White Sox World Series sweep, two goals in 17 seconds, or any one of six Bulls championships.
But the thing is, any of Chicago’s teams can win another title. The moment we'll never experience again is watching the game’s greatest player ever return to your team and lead them to multiple championships three years in a row.
That’s what makes the Jordan comeback one of best moments ever.