NBC Sports Chicago airing 'I'm Back' documentary about Michael Jordan's return to the NBA

NBC Sports Chicago airing 'I'm Back' documentary about Michael Jordan's return to the NBA

Chicago, IL (March 17, 2020) – Coinciding with the 25th anniversary of the most famous fax ever sent in sports history, NBC Sports Chicago has announced it will air a brand new documentary presentation entitled I’m Back., detailing the announcement process and eventual on-court return of the G.O.A.T., Chicago Bulls/NBA legend MICHAEL JORDAN. This in-depth, half-hour documentary, highlighting Jordan’s decision to return to the NBA, the worldwide significance of his return and why that historic decision a quarter-century ago still matters in 2020 will all be told tomorrow evening, Wednesday, March 18 at 6:30 PM CT, exclusively on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live to authenticated NBC Sports Chicago subscribers at NBCSportsChicago.com/WatchLive. The 6:30 PM premiere of I’m Back precedes NBC Sports Chicago first Bulls “Classic” game – featuring the Bulls vs. Miami in Round 1/Game 1 the 1996 NBA Playoffs – airing at 7:00 PM.  In addition, I’m Back will also air immediately following tomorrow night’s Bulls “Classic” game at 9:30 PM.

Following his 18-month retirement from basketball, I’m Back chronicles the weeks leading up to Jordan’s internationally-celebrated two-word announcement, the timing of his decision to return, the origination and simplicity of the fax itself, his first game back (wearing a #45 jersey), which occurred the very next day against the Indiana Pacers, and much more.

Among the numerous interviews included in NBC Sports Chicago’s Original Production of I’m Back, features candid recollections from the following individuals:
•    DAVID FALK – MJ’s former agent
•    TONI KUKOC – MJ teammate ’95-‘98
•    HORACE GRANT – MJ teammate ’87-‘93
•    STEVE KERR – MJ teammate ’95-‘98
•    TIM HARDAWAY – 5-time NBA All-Star
•    CHRIS MULLIN – 5-time NBA All-Star
•    BRIAN MCINTYRE – former NBA Sr VP Basketball Communications
•    DOMINIQUE WILKINS – 9-time NBA All-Star
•    LEBRON JAMES – 16-time NBA All-Star
•    DWYANE WADE – 13-time NBA All-Star
•    GLEN RICE – 3-time NBA All-Star
•    ROBERT HORRY – 7-time NBA Champion
•    BILL SMITH – Bulls Photographer
•    MARK GIANGRECO – Sports Director, Anchor, ABC-7
•    MARC SILVERMAN – Co-host ‘Waddle & Silvy’, ESPN 1000
•    TIM GROVER – MJ’s former personal trainer
•    ROD HIGGINS – MJ teammate ’84-’86, longtime friend
I’m Back was produced and edited by NBC Sports Chicago’s Emmy award-winning team of Executive Producer of Original Content Sarah Lauch, Senior Producer of Original Content Ryan McGuffey and Managing Photographer Matt Buckman.  Please note the following quotes from the NBC Sports Chicago Original Production of I’m Back, debuting Wednesday, March 18 at 6:30 PM CT on NBC Sports Chicago and NBCSportsChicago.com/WatchLive:
David Falk – Michael Jordan’s former agent on the fax:
“There’s not a PR agency in the country that would’ve written as something as elegant as what Michael wrote.  It was elegant and simplistic.”

Mark Giangreco – longtime Chicago sports director/anchor, currently at ABC-7
“It’s the most impactful two words (I’m Back) ever.”

Toni Kukoc – teammate ’95-’98 – on practices at Berto Center the week MJ returned
“Everybody was kind of talking, (whispering), maybe he’s back, maybe he’s not, we don’t know, but it looks like he might be back.  And it was time to go practice and once I went to the locker room and I saw about 40-50 pairs of Jordans at his locker, I said to myself, ‘there’s no way he’s just going to practice one practice with the 50 pairs of shoes here.”

LeBron James – reaction to MJ’s return as an 11 year old growing up in Akron, OH
“It was a very joyous moment for my community, myself, my friends.  Just having the greatest basketball player ever to come back playing the game.  I needed that inspiration growing up in the inner city.  It was like I kind of lost a superhero when he retired.  Someone that I kind of needed to help me, some way, somehow, even though he didn’t know it.”

Steve Kerr, head coach Golden State Warriors, MJ teammate ’95-’98 – on how MJ’s decision to return impacted him
“For me it completely changed the rest of my life.  Playing with Michael Jordan changed the entire course of my career.  I was able to play on these championship teams, made a name for myself, was able to get into TV, broadcasting, management and coaching.  And the reason that people hired me for these jobs later on is because I had played next to Michael Jordan…….I kind of owe Michael.  I owe him everything.”

Marc Silverman – co-host, “Waddle & Silvy” ESPN 1000, Bulls beat reporter in 1995 – on the scene at Market Square Arena, March 19, 1995
“You have the tunnel and this is stuck in my head.  I was jostling, trying to get as close to that tunnel as possible, to see that first time that Michael and the Bulls are coming out of that tunnel as a different Bulls organization and now a threat in the NBA.  And it was lined with people and hangers on and media, and news, not just sports media, but news people….But it was lined and the buzz was, and I’ve covered three Bulls championships.  There’s never been a buzz, compared to that tunnel of Michael Jordan running out of it for his comeback.”

Tim Grover – Michael Jordan’s former trainer on why the decision still resonates 25 years later
“That’s the difference between a legend and an icon.  That’s the difference.  There’s a lot of legends.  There’s only a few icons.  You cannot talk about basketball…you know, it’s funny, as time grows, time goes by, the legends and stories even get bigger and bigger and bigger and bigger……When you’re an icon, and he is an icon, it’s not going to stop.  It’s not going to stop.”

NOTE:  Additional air dates/times for NBC Sports Chicago’s I’m Back documentary presentation will be announced on NBCSportsChicago.com and via Twitter @NBCSChicago.

NBC Sports Chicago, a partnership between the Chicago Blackhawks (NHL), Chicago Bulls (NBA), Chicago White Sox (MLB) and the NBC Sports Group, features over 275 live pro games in high definition each year.  In addition, NBC Sports Chicago delivers extensive pre/post-game coverage for its core pro team partners, as well as Chicago Bears and Chicago Cubs multi-platform coverage, plus - local sports discussion programs that includes SportsTalk Live, and massive cross-platform coverage provided by the network’s growing digital platform, NBCSportsChicago.com, the “MyTeams by NBC Sports” app, and its variety of fan-focused social media outlets. Fans can follow the network on Twitter via @NBCSChicago.

NBC Sports Regional Networks is NBC Sports Group’s portfolio of nine regional networks that delivers more than 2,200 live sporting events and original content to more than 35 million homes. Aligned within Eastern and Western Divisions, the NBC Sports Regional Networks are: NBC Sports Boston, NBC Sports Philadelphia, NBC Sports Philadelphia +, NBC Sports Washington, NBC Sports Washington + and SNY; and NBC Sports Bay Area, NBC Sports California, NBC Sports Chicago/NBC Sports Chicago+, and NBC Sports Northwest. For more information on NBC Sports Group properties, including press releases, photos, talent and executive bios, headshots and logos, please visit www.NBCSportsGroupPressBox.com.

How Toni Kukoc knew Michael Jordan was going to unretire and rejoin Bulls

How Toni Kukoc knew Michael Jordan was going to unretire and rejoin Bulls

In the run-up to Michael Jordan breaking his first retirement to rejoin the Bulls, mystery, rumor and large swaths of media swirled about the Berto Center in force — all trying to catch a glimpse of Jordan sneaking in and out, or procure the soundbite that would foreshadow his ultimate return.

While mum was the word around the Bulls on Jordan’s plans, Toni Kukoc had a feeling he knew what was coming. He described the moment he realized for sure Jordan was planning a comeback on NBC Sports’ “Sports Uncovered” podcast.

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“It was time to go practice, and once I went to the locker room and I saw about 40, 50 pairs of Jordans at his locker,” Kukoc said on the podcast. “I said to myself there is no way he’s going to one practice with 50 pairs of shoes ready.”

Kukoc’s detective work rang true. On March 18, 1995, Jordan declared his return to the NBA and the Bulls with a two-word fax that changed sports history: “I’m back.”

“From that point on, it was like the Bulls were this American team that everybody wants to see, that everybody wants to talk to,” said Kukoc, who joined the NBA and the Bulls mere months before Jordan announced his first retirement in 1993. “I felt like we had fans literally every single arena we played.”

The reverberations of the impact of Jordan’s return echoed throughout every niche of the NBA world — from players to media to executives to fans, including LeBron James.

Hear more from those orbiting Jordan during that time in his career on the “Sports Uncovered” podcast here.

Why Michael Jordan secretly practiced with the Warriors before NBA return

Why Michael Jordan secretly practiced with the Warriors before NBA return

Before Michael Jordan returned to the Bulls from his first retirement in the spring of 1995, he was a Golden State Warrior for 48 hours.

In NBC Sports’ “Sports Uncovered” podcast, members of the 1994-95 Dubs detailed, for the first time in 25 years, Warriors practices Jordan dominated weeks before even rejoining Bulls practices — and the motivation behind them.

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“I might get in trouble for this,” said Tim Hardaway, then Golden State’s star point guard. “Him and (Warriors assistant coach) Rod Higgins are really, really good friends. He (Jordan) came and practiced with us two or three times.”

Indeed, Jordan dialed up Higgins while on a quick trip to California during the MLB strike of 1994-95 to see if he could lace up and run with the Warriors in secret. Upon receiving head coach Don Nelson’s enthusiastic approval, Higgins invited Jordan over, assistant equipment manager Eric Houssen outfitted him in Warriors threads and the games began.

“What I remember is him walking on the court, after not playing, probably playing 36 holes of golf the day before, and dominating,” Chris Mullin, injured at the time but still an observer of the practices, said on the podcast.

That Warriors team featured a host of NBA greats, from Hardaway to Mullin (a future Hall-of-Famer) to Latrell Sprewell and more. Three years into his career and just 24, Sprewell, specifically, was already a two-time All-Star and 20-point scorer — a budding star in the league at the shooting guard position.

Runs matched up with Sprewell were about more than just getting a sweat on to Jordan.

“MJ really wanted to play against Hardaway and Sprewell,” Higgins said, “because Sprewell was the new ‘it,’ so to speak, in terms of the two-guard.

“Once Michael got warmed up, you could tell his objective was to basically kick Spree and Tim’s behind, and talk trash to them… he basically measured Spree up.”

For Jordan, poking his head back into basketball, even for just a moment, was about delivering a message, both to his adversaries and himself. He needed to know how he stacked up before formally attempting a return.

“He wanted to go after the best, youngest player he thought could be better than him,” Mullin said of Sprewell. “And he (Jordan) put it to rest that day.”

“Latrell was one of the more explosive, more athletic, and he was probably one of the better players during that short run that he had,” said Tim Grover, Jordan’s longtime trainer. “So what Michael needed to know: even though I took the time off, can I still come back and kick his ass... and in his mind he’s like, ‘I’ve been gone from this game for how long? And he’s supposed to be the top player? Alright.’ He wasn’t testing himself against Sprewell, he was testing himself against himself.”

To all in attendance, it cemented that Jordan’s return to the game was a matter of when. Not if.

“I always thought he was coming back, but a day like that…” Mullin said. “He was just so fit, so it wasn’t a physical thing. But seeing him on the basketball court and playing against Sprewell, who was a really good player and he was in midseason form, for him to do that, I thought, it’s just a matter of time.”

Mullin was right. Jordan returned to the Bulls on March 18, 1995, with a two-word fax that changed sports forever. Glory wasn’t in the cards for the Bulls that season, but three championships (and two more MVP awards for Jordan) ensued from 1996-98. 

We can all thank Rod Higgins, Latrell Sprewell and the rest of the ‘95 Warriors for their role in that.