Just nine days after announcing his retirement from baseball in 1995, Michael Jordan returned to the NBA hardwood with the Chicago Bulls.
Jordan spent 21 months away from basketball and among the Minor League Baseball ranks from 1993-95. The future Hall-of-Famer then came back for a second stint in the league on March 19, 1995—25 years ago exactly.
The Bulls retired Jordan's No. 23 nearly five months before his comeback, but the 14-time All-Star swapped his original number for a No. 45 jersey when it came time to play again. The change marked a new chapter and reflected his baseball number and brother Larry's prep number.
In his first game back with the Bulls, Jordan recorded 19 points on 7-of-28 shooting with 6 assists and 6 rebounds in a seven-point loss to the Pacers. He quickly bounced back after the slow start, putting up his famous "Double-Nickel" 55-point performance against the Knicks in Madison Square Garden four games later.
Wearing No. 45, Jordan rejuvenated Chicago and averaged 26.9 points, 5.3 rebounds and 6.9 assists in the final 17 games of the regular season. The Bulls went 13-4 in that stretch, reaching the playoffs and advancing to the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Orlando Magic.
It was that series that brought more change for Jordan. The veteran struggled in a close Game 1 loss, highlighted by a late turnover that led to the Magic's game-winning fastbreak dunk. The player that stripped the ball, Nick Anderson, later made a bold statement about Jordan.
"No. 45 doesn't explode like No. 23 used to," Anderson said after the game. "No. 45 is not No. 23. I couldn't have done that to No. 23."
Following that game, NBA fans never saw Jordan wear No. 45 again. He switched back to No. 23 in Game 2, reversing the number's initial retirement, and scored 38 points in Chicago's victory.
The Bulls ended up losing the series in six games, but Jordan returned to the top of his game. After winning three championships with the Bulls before his baseball career, Jordan won three straight following his return from 1996-98. He retired from the NBA for a second time in early 1999, finishing his career with six championship rings and as the best to ever play the game.
Jordan went on to serve as President of Basketball Operations for the Washington Wizards in 2000, but the itch to return to the court again showed itself after three seasons out of the league. At the age of 38, Jordan came out of retirement—again—to play for the Wizards.
Unlike his return to Chicago, Jordan did not find as much success with Washington. He averaged 22.9 points in 2001-02 and a career-low 20.0 points in 2002-03, failing to reach the playoffs in both seasons. After a 15-season career, he retired from the league one final time.
Despite a meager final two seasons, Jordan had one of the greatest comebacks in sports history with his 1995 return. His No. 45 did not last long, but it marked the start of a new Jordan era and another Bulls three-peat in the years that followed.