Michael Jordan and the No. 23 are synonymous, but he famously wore No. 45 when he returned from his first retirement in 1995.
When he retired in 1993, Jordan talked about how meaningful it was that his father saw him play his last game. Jordan’s father died in August of 1993.
Jordan talked about why he wore No. 45 when he returned in the spring of 1995 in Episode 8 of “The Last Dance.”
“I didn’t want to wear 23 because I knew my father wasn’t there to watch me, and I felt it was a new beginning and 45 was my first number when I was playing in high school,” Jordan said.
Things changed when the Bulls faced the Orlando Magic in the 1995 playoffs. The Bulls lost Game 1 in Orlando in the Eastern Conference semifinals with Jordan committing two turnovers in the final minute of a close game.
“After the game Nick Anderson said ‘45 isn’t 23,’” Horace Grant said on the documentary. “Oh man (while rolling his eyes).”
Jordan came out with No. 23 on for Game 2, and the Bulls won in Orlando.
“I just felt like 45 wasn’t natural,” Jordan said. “I wanted to go back with the feeling I had with 23.”
Jordan wore No. 23 for the rest of the series and the rest of his career, but that series sparked the 72-win 1995-96 Bulls which went on to win the NBA title.
“That was one of Michael’s lowest points when he came back and they didn’t win,” Ahmad Rashad said. “He hated the fact that Horace was on the other team when they beat him and just to watch all the celebrating that they were doing. I think that’s what he took to heart. He used that for that next year.”