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Throwback Thursday – ‘I’m Back’

On March 18, 1995, Michael Jordan sent shock waves throughout the basketball community with two simple words: “I’m back.”

Jordan’s infamous two-word press release announced to the world that he was returning to the NBA after a brief hiatus playing baseball:

20 years ago today, the most famous two-word press release in sports history was released. #MichaelJordan #NBA #45

A photo posted by Chicago Bulls (@chicagobulls) on

Wednesday was the 20th anniversary of Jordan’s first comeback to the NBA, which led to plenty of reminiscing. Sam Smith over at Bulls.com talked about it from the Bulls’ perspective. J.A. Adande of ESPN.com talked about the fax and the whole process of sending that fax, which is now an antiquated form of communication. Scottie Pippen sent out a series of tweets talking about Jordan’s retirement and comeback:

I wish I could say I had a better memory of where I was or what I was doing when the news came across that wire that M.J. was returning. Growing up in the suburbs of Chicago, I was a Bulls fan, and my first Bulls memories were watching the 1993 NBA Finals as a five-year-old with my dad.

When Jordan returned, I hadn’t even turned seven yet, so I couldn’t really grasp just how big of a deal this announcement was. I obviously knew it was pretty big, but again, I can’t even remember where I was when it happened.

I do remember getting a No. 45 jersey, though, and that was the only Jordan jersey I ever had. And I definitely remember watching the double-nickel game at Madison Square Garden, just five games into his return. The Bulls actually lost two of their first three games after Jordan came back, but they then proceeded to finish the year 12-2 to go storming into the playoffs.

Of course, Chicago faltered in the second round of the playoffs against the Orlando Magic, and Nick Anderson’s theft of Jordan in Game 1 of that series led to a Magic game-winner. Jordan turned the ball over on the ensuing possession, and the Bulls went on to lose the series in six games.

But as we all very well know, the Bulls would be back, and the next year was the infamous 72-win team. That win total still holds up today, and in this age of resting players, it’s hard to see anybody breaking that record. This year’s Golden State Warriors are one of the most dominant regular-season teams in recent memory, and they won’t even win 70 games. Perhaps some team comes along that does it, but it’ll be quite the feat to lose single-digit games in an 82-game season.

While I was still too young to fully appreciate that second three-peat, I still have plenty of great memories of watching them. I saw Jordan play in person just once, and he didn’t even play that great, scoring 17 points in a blowout win over the Warriors. But I didn’t care, because I was just pumped to be able to see Jordan and his Bulls play.

I still wish Jordan wouldn’t have come back with the Washington Wizards, because the way he ended his career with the Bulls in 1998 was too perfect. That shot over Byron Russell will forever be etched into my mind, and it’s one of the more iconic shots of all time.

But never forget that that shot was only possible because of that short and sweet press release from just over 20 years ago. The phrase “I’ll be back” may belong to the Terminator, but “I’m back” belongs to Michael Jordan.

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