Tip-Off Timer: No. 45 Is Not Jordan's Fondest Memory
Michael Jordan was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame this week as No. 23, the ringleader through the Glory Days in Chicago. His number was retired once after he won three championships for the Bulls, then unretired so he could wear it a second time to win three more titles.
Hardly anyone wants to remember that he also wore Chicago's No. 45 during not so glory days of Jordan in Chicago, that brief period of his career that was so greatly anticipated, but so sadly disappointing.
Jordan wore No. 45 for just 26 games at the end of the 1994-95 season, returning to the team after his year-and-a-half in exile playing minor league baseball. Upon his return, he shook off the rust quickly, helped the Bulls to a strong regular season finish, but looked merely mortal when the playoffs began.
The Bulls lost to the Magic in the second round, 4-2, devastated when Nick Anderson stole the ball from Jordan in the closing seconds of the decisive Game 5 to beat the Bulls.
When the series ended, Jordan never wore No. 45 again. He returned as No. 23 for the 1995-96 season and won three more titles before he retired again. He staged a final comeback with the Washington Wizards (2001-03), where he again wore his familiar No. 23. At that stage of his career, he probably should have worn 00.
He actually discarded No. 45 for Game 2 of that sad series with the Magic, stunning everyone by coming onto the court in Orlando with his old No. 23. It made for great theater. The Bulls won that game, but the league fined Jordan $5,000 and forced him into returning to No. 45 for the remainder of the series.
It was in Orlando earlier in his career (Feb. 14, 1990) when he surprised everyone by appearing without his familiar No. 23. Someone had come into the visitors locker room before Jordan arrived that night and stolen the jersey, forcing him into a backup No. 12.
The jersey change didn't seem to bother him, though. He scored 49 points in an overtime loss to the Magic, an expansion team in their first season of NBA basketball.