After a brief and unexpected retirement from the game of basketball in 1993, Michael Jordan officially returned to the Chicago Bulls 23 years ago today.
The clues were there—Jordan's departure from baseball and Scottie Pippen soliciting him with a point at his Air Jordan 10 sneakers were good signs. But it wasn't official until he sent the famous two-word fax on March 18, 1995: "I'm Back." The moment was recently honored in sneaker form with yesterday's release of "I'm Back" Air Jordan 10.
A day after the fax, Jordan was back in the Bulls' lineup, wearing the unfamiliar number 45. The opponent was the Indiana Pacers, led by Jordan's long-time rival Reggie Miller. Was there rust? Sure, Jordan knocked down just 7 of his 28 shots for a total of 19 points in the Bulls' 103-96 loss. But there were also flashes of the brilliance that would eventually guide Chicago to another three-peat.
“I really truly missed the game. I missed my friends. Certainly I missed my teammates,” said Jordan in his postgame press conference.
Because of Tinker Hatfield's persistence behind the scenes, Jordan returned to the league with an active sneaker line. The same Air Jordan 10 used by Pippen to lure his friend out of retirement was on Jordan's feet against the Pacers. And again 10 days later, when he hit New York City with the Double Nickel.
“Most people at Nike were told that it was the end of an era, that there wouldn’t be anymore Jordans. I single-handedly kept designing on the 10,” Hatfield told Complex's Joe La Puma in 2008.
Hatfield, like Jordan, does things on his terms and is unapologetic about the outcome. The bold decisions made by both men are why March 19 will forever be a significant date in sneaker history.