Michael Jordan’s first retirement in 1993 was a shock to society and that was not lost on Phil Jackson when it was about to happen.
The story is told in Episode 7 of “The Last Dance.” Bulls chairman Jerry Reinsdorf first found out when Jordan’s agent, David Falk told him of the news at a charity dinner that was sponsored by Jordan.
“At that time, we were coming off of three championships,” Jordan said in the documentary. “I fulfilled my responsibility to the city, to the Bulls, to my teammates.”
Reinsdorf said he did not try to talk Jordan out of retiring, but he insisted Jordan talk to Phil Jackson before making a final decision. That meeting took place in Reinsdorf’s office in the Berto Center in Deerfield.
“I told Phil, I said ‘Look, I’m about here. I’m about done. I have no more challenges. I have no motivation,’” Jordan said. “I was done.”
What Jackson told Jordan was a perfect representation of the type of coach Jackson was, and why Jordan liked playing for him so much.
“This was a young man who had gone through some heartrending things,” Jackson said referring to the recent death of Jordan’s father. “You’re denying a gift to society, but I understand, you know, I understand.”
Jordan’s father died in August of 1993. He retired in October, with the news breaking while he was in attendance of a 1993 ALCS game at Comiskey Park between the White Sox and Toronto Blue Jays.
Jordan was 30 when he retired from basketball and the Bulls were coming off three straight titles. Previously in the documentary, Jordan talked about how exhausted he was, both emotionally and physically. Jackson understood that while also knowing the significance of Jordan retiring from basketball at that time. That’s why he was the Zen Master.