For those of us old enough to have enjoyed all of Michael Jordan’s Hall of Fame career, the words “I’m back” hold a special significance. That was the simple fax message announcing Jordan’s return to the Bulls after a year and a half away from the NBA.
Reports had surfaced of MJ working out with the team at the Berto Center after the baseball lockout ended his attempt at playing for the White Sox. And Jordan decided he would resume his basketball career March 19, 1995 in Indianapolis against longtime rival Reggie Miller and the Pacers.
On a personal note, my daughter Brooke, had been born in February 1995, and she was going to be baptized that morning. That took me out of the mix to travel to Indianapolis to cover the game, but most of the guests who had come in from out of town for the baptism joined me to watch Michael’s comeback on television that afternoon. Maybe that’s why my daughter went on to play basketball in grade school and high school. The sport had been a part of her life from the very beginning.
The game itself was hardly an artistic success. Jordan didn’t look quite right wearing No. 45 and he struggled with his shot from the field in a Bulls’ loss. But just seeing him back on the basketball court opened the door to a brand new chapter for the Bulls, the possibility that this team could be great again and hang more championship banners in the United Center.
As we all know, Jordan went on to score 55 points at Madison Square Garden in his fifth game back and he led the Bulls to a first-round playoff series win over Charlotte before eventually falling to Orlando in the Conference semifinals.
That summer, Jordan worked tirelessly to sharpen his basketball skills, even while filming the movie "Space Jam" out in Los Angeles. He came back determined to re-establish himself as the best player in the game, and what followed was the historic 72-10 campaign of 1995-96, a record that might never be broken.
It all started with the simple message, “I’m back.”
And Bulls fans couldn’t have been happier.