After winning his third consecutive NBA championship, at the peak of his career, Michael Jordan, on October 6, 1993, announced his retirement shocking the entire sports world. Jordan said, “the mental aspect is not the same – the challenge is not as great. I promised myself – and I have said many times publicly – that when the mental challenge began to fade, I would leave. That time is nowhere.” He then decided to pick up the game of baseball, for 1994 baseball season, playing for the Birmingham Barons, an affiliate of the Chicago White Sox in the Class AA Southern League.
With the mental challenge gradually returning, on March 18, 1995, Jordan publicly announced that he would rejoin the Chicago Bulls and play in the next day’s nationally televised game against the Pacers at Indianapolis. He stepped onto the court with a new jersey – the number 45 – a perfected fade away jumper, and a whole new game. Jordan returned to the game, with only one ambition in mind, to prove to the NBA fans worldwide that he is, without a doubt, the greatest player ever. After his return, he was able to dominate the game and market, in such a way that no other player can compare with.
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Michael Jordan returned to the NBA in the middle of the regular season, in which the Chicago Bulls were in a disaster. With a pitiful 34-31 record, Jordan’s return was the team’s only hope. Although looking a little rusty in his first game, he was soon able to pick it up in his fifth game with an unforgettable 55 points against the New York Knicks. With Jordan the Bulls went 13-4 to finish the season with 47-35 overall, bringing the team to the playoffs. Jordan proved that even after years off he could come back at an old age and actually dominate the league more than he did previously. He showed that one could still lead the league well into his thirties.
He may have been a little less agile, but in compensation, Jordan was a far more effective and controlled jump shooter, three-point scoring threat, and remained an outstanding all-around contributor. Only after his return, in the 95-96 season, did Jordan start all 100 games for the Bulls, becoming the first and only player to start the whole regular season. In the same season, joining Willis Reed, he was the second man to win MVP awards for the regular season, All-Star Game and NBA Finals. In the 97-98 season, he joins Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Wilt Chamberlain as the only players to score 29,000, proving to be the most dominant player in the league.
Jordan’s importance to the game and the market were portrayed best in his return from retirement. The 1994 final had a rating of 12.4, the last season to be played entirely without Jordan, was NBC’s lowest-rated in its eight years of showing the NBA. Nevertheless, in his first game coming out of retirement, he brought NBC’s rating to an incredible 13.4, ranking it among the top-five TV ratings in NBA history for a regular-season game. In the history of all sports, no single player has ever made such an impact. His return benefited all the companies he endorsed, according to Time magazine, it was estimated that his return was worth nearly four billion dollars.
Years after his return, Jordan was voted to be the Athlete of the Century, one of the greatest titles an athlete can achieve. A unique combination of athleticism, motivation, devotion, and definition to the game of basketball, which no other player (past or present) has in the history of the NBA, truly demonstrated his worthiness of the title. Many people are known to compare the legend, Michael Jordan, to Kobe Bryant, Vince Carter, and Allen Iverson, which is impossible – for they are incomparable. The one and only time this comparison could have been made are when he first came to the NBA, the time when people claimed he was all show and no skill.
However, as he returned from retirement, this unique combination that he acquired set him apart from any and every other player. For instance, while recovering from a stomach virus, in the 1997 Finals against the Jazz, Jordan was able to score the clutch game-winning shot for a total of 38 points in Game 5. Then in Game 6, down by three with less than a minute left on the clock, he was able to score on a lay-up, steal the ball, and score again. These are just two of many examples, where he exemplifies his talent, which no other player can measure up to. Greatness is rarely something one is born with, it takes something you enjoy, excelling in it while surpassing all other competition.
Michael Jordan’s extraordinary success has inspired far more young people, poor, middle-class or rich, black, white or Asian, to strive for their own dreams, than a group of social workers could ever think possible. His continual strive to be the best of the best had brought him back from retirement. With less ability to drive to the rim at will, determination had caused him to perfect his unstoppable fade-away jumper. Some people are naturally gifted waiting to become a success; however, for Jordan, it is his determination and drive that had made him a success. “Determination, not wings,” Jordan explains, “is how a normal kid from North Carolina learned to ‘fly.’” A combination of all these qualities had brought him to become a success on and off the court, giving him the title of the greatest athlete of the century.
These are the qualities those youngsters growing up in our slums having nothing but a ball and a run-down hoop had admired. It was not long after his return did Jordan become a role model for many children trying to achieve their dreams of soon making it to the NBA. Kids cross country strive to be just like him, hanging their tongues out on the courts and developing different creative moves, seemingly everyone “wants to be like Mike.”
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