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Why Did Michael Jordan Switch Jersey Numbers?

Michael Jordan is widely considered to be the best basketball player of all time – few people would argue about that. As Jordan achieved tremendous success during his career, he was constantly in the spotlight.

Why did Jordan switch jersey numbers? Jordan’s father was murdered. As Michael wrote in his autobiography called For the Love of Game he explained that when he came back from his second retirement Jordan did not want to play in the same number his father had seen him wear.

Michael Jordan cemented his legacy in the annals of basketball convincingly and there are no question marks about the best player in history. Let’s have a further look at Jordan’s career and the history associated with switching jersey numbers. 

First Years in the NBA

When Michael Jordan came to the NBA, he was considered as one of the best talents. While it was an era of centers and so-called “Big Men”, Jordan completely revolutionized basketball. His incredible movement, difficult shoots and the ability to change the outcome of a particular game in no time was significant. Jordan was playing with the number 23. 

A lot of people are interested in why Jordan decided to wear the number 23. Jordan’s older brother Harry was already on the team, wearing the number 45. Michael could not wear the same number as his brother had so he decided to halve the number and started wearing 23. He continued wearing the same number in the University of North Carolina, where he managed to firmly establish himself as one of the hottest prospects and initially entered the 1984 NBA draft

When he won the first 3-peat with the Chicago Bulls, he announced retirement in 1993, noting that he could continue anymore, as his father was murdered. It was strange, because Jordan still had the ability to compete at the highest level, but the decision was not overturned.

Coming Back in 1995

After trying his career as a baseball player, Jordan announced his return in the NBA in 1995. The Bulls were struggling without him and did not manage to win a single championship title. When Jordan returned, he said that when his father was murdered in July 1993, to let go of the painful memories, it was better to switch a jersey number. So Michael started to wear number 45. However Michael only played 23 games with this number and moved to his initial jersey. He also talked about this fact in the TV show “The Last Dance”.

It is necessary to point out that when Jordan decided to retire from the NBA, the Bulls also retired his number. However, the announcement from Jordan was surprising and soon he decided to revert to his original number. 

Michael Also Played with 12

While we are mainly talking about 2 jersey numbers, there was a rare case, when Jordan played with the number 12. On February 14, 1990, exactly 31 years ago, NBA legend Michael Jordan played his only match in the league at number 12.

The Chicago forward was forced to hit the floor at number 12, as his number 23 jersey was stolen shortly before the starting throw-in. Jordan wanted the game to be delayed until security guards in Orlando found his jersey. Michael scored 49 points in the losing match, scoring 21 of 43 field goals.

The Series Against Orlando

Plenty of people – including the teammates of Jordan, note that things changed when Jordan decided to revert to his original 23 number in the series against the Orlando Magic. In the 1995 Eastern Conference semifinals, the Bulls lost the first game against the Magic and Jordan also conceded turnovers in the final minutes of the match. In the second game, Jordan started wearing the number 23. While the Chicago Bulls still lost the series, it was a sign that Michael returned and was on its way to conquer the NBA once again.

Before the second match, Jordan broke all existing rules. The Bulls administrator carried both MJ’s numbers with him, but the league has a strict code about changing numbers: you need to warn the office of the league in advance and get permission, you need to wait until the end of the season. A few minutes before the game, Jordan dashed into the locker room and just changed his shirt – he went under 23, scored 38 points, 7 rebounds, 4 blocks and 4 steals, brought Chicago victory and paid a fine for not adhering to the code of conduct.

The Number 23 is a Symbol

In general, “23” is far from the most popular number in the league. But, of course, the most talked about and therefore slightly magical. Jordan’s career itself led to this.

He himself initially did not attach much importance. He liked the number 45 better, but when he started playing basketball for the school team, one dude was already running in a T-shirt with such numbers – his brother Larry. He was offered a choice of “23” and “33” – as Jordan later explained himself, he divided 45 by two and chose “23”. With this number, he performed in college, and then in the NBA. The magical properties of “23” began to be endowed with the return of Jordan.

When Jordan left, Miami Heat president Pat Riley urged the entire league to withdraw the number from circulation and set an example – Jordan mocked Miami all the way, but his number was the first that the club decided to perpetuate. Still Jordan’s 23 is something that a lot of NBA teams will look after with care.