Many people credit Nick Anderson for motivating Michael Jordan to switch from the No. 45 he wore when he came out of his first retirement back to his legendary No. 23.
Anderson sealed a Game 1 victory for the Orlando Magic in the 1995 Eastern Conference semifinals by stealing the ball from Jordan. But then, he committed the ultimate no-no against Jordan, who famously invented slights even when they didn’t actually exist.
"No. 45 doesn't explode like No. 23 used to," Anderson told reporters after the game. "No. 45 is not No. 23. I couldn't have done that to No. 23."
Jordan shocked the world — and the NBA league office, which fined the Bulls $25,000 for the unannounced move — by wearing No. 23 for the Bulls’ Game 2 victory. For that switch, longtime Bulls equipment manager John Ligmanowski deserves credit. Having discussed the uniform number with Jordan when he first returned in March, Ligmanowski was ready for anything.
“We had a conversation in the locker room at the Berto Center,” Ligmanowski said on NBC Sports’ “Sports Uncovered” podcast, referencing the Bulls’ old practice facility. “And I asked him. I said, ‘You wore No. 45 in baseball. What number do you want to wear?’ He sat there and thought for awhile. And then he decided he was going to go with the 45.
“And I said, ‘I’ll tell you what I’ll do. I’ll make the 23 up too so we’ll have both. We’ll have the 45, the 23. If you want to change your mind, I got it.’ . . . I always carried the 23 around with me in case he decided. Which it happened.”
Jordan proceeded to drop 38 points on the Magic in the game following the switch. Orlando did get the last laugh with a stunning, six-game series victory.
But No. 23 was back, thanks in part to Ligmanowski. Three more Bulls titles followed.