The NBA’s GOAT shocked the world when he announced his early retirement at just 30 years old and a second one, few years after his comeback. Many wondered what made Michael Jordan leave the league at the top of his career.
In October 1993, just one day before the training camp for the Chicago Bulls ’93 - ’94 season, Michael Jordan dropped jaws all over the world. The NBA star had announced his retirement from basketball.
The early retirement of the greatest basketball player of all time took the whole world by surprise. Michael Jordan was only 30 years old and at the prime of his career when he decided to hang up his boots.
Michael Jordan at the 2014 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on August 26, 2014 New York City. | Source: Getty Images
Following his retirement, Jordan played professional baseball with the Birmingham Barons, a minor league, but never achieved a spot in the major league, as he had previously planned. All of which leveraged various rumors around Jordan’s sudden decision to leave the sport.
WHY DID HE LEAVE NBA?
In 1993, Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls won their third consecutive NBA title. Right after that, the basketball star announced his retirement from the basketball league without further explanation.
Later, he revealed that it was due to his father’s murder, and he wanted to honor his dad. James Jordan was tragically murdered three months before Jordan’s announcement.
The murder was reported as a result of a robbery gone wrong. A 17-year-old pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in the James Jordan case. Another man was arrested, an alleged friend and accomplice.
Michael Jordan celebrates with his father James Jordan in the locker room after winning Game 5 the 1991 NBA Championship. | Source: Getty Images
The basketball legend opened up about his father’s death in one of the episodes of the Netflix docuseries “The Last Dance.” He shared that his dad motivated him, resulting in a close relationship that made Jordan consider his father “his rock.”
During one of the episodes, Jordan recalled the last conversation with his father. He revealed he was already considering retirement for some time. According to him, James encouraged him to move to baseball:
“We were debating about me playing baseball. Dad, I want to go play baseball. I'm thinking about retiring, I want to go play baseball. He was saying, 'Do it, do it.'”
Michael Jordan and his father James Jordan in the Chicago Bulls locker room in 1991. | Source: Getty Images
However, in 1995, after 13 months of playing in a minor baseball league, Jordan contacted his agent, David Falk, who sent a fax to NBA in his regard with MJ’s two words: “I’m back.”
ANOTHER POSSIBLE REASON
Jordan’s departure from the Bulls and his subsequent return caused a frenzy and opened up the door for many theories. One of them was that his short-lived retirement was a cover-up to hide a gambling suspension.
According to some people who believe in the abovementioned theory, it was in the NBA’s best interest to keep this quiet to preserve the league and its star player.
Charlotte Bobcats team owner Michael Jordan smiles during a press conference at West Charlotte High School on Thursday, March 21, 2013. | Source: Getty Images
In 1992, before his retirement, the NBA launched an investigation into Jordan’s gambling centered around checks found during criminal investigations. Officials found one during a crime scene investigation of the murder of a bail bondsman.
Investigators found that a man charged with high-stakes gambling has the second check in his possession. The man was convicted for several charges, including drug possession and money laundering.
Michael Jordan plays golf circa 1992 during the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona, Spain. | Source: Getty Images
NBA Commissioner David Stern closed the investigation stating that Jordan was cleared and had done nothing wrong. Later, during a public statement, the basketball legend raised the possibility of making a comeback:
“Five years down the line if that urge comes back, if the Bulls have me, if David Stern lets me back in the league, I may come back.”
Jordan’s speech raised some brows and fed into the conspiracy theories. Fortunately, the NBA does not have any rules against gambling, and since Jordan wasn’t under investigation by law enforcement, the league wanted to make sure he had no connection with high-stakes gamblers.
Michael Jordan attends the 13th annual Michael Jordan Celebrity Invitational gala at the ARIA Resort & Casino at CityCenter on April 4, 2014 in Las Vegas, Nevada. | Source: Getty Images
Whether the theory is just conspiracy or not, Jordan shared his thoughts about the rumors during the same “The Last Dance” episode:
“I didn't retire because he kicked me out or they suspended me for a year and a half. That is not true. There is no truth to that. I needed a break. You know, my father just passed, and I retired.”
MORE PIECES OF THE PUZZLE
It is, however, widely known by the public that Jordan had gambling problems. In 1993, a former General Manager of the San Diego Sports Arena, Richard Esquinas, alleged that he and Jordan played golf and gambled together.
Michael Jordan during the 1988 NBA All Star Slam Dunk Competition on February 6, 1988 at Chicago Stadium in Chicago, Illinois. | Source: Getty Images
That year, Esquinas published a book, “Michael and Me: Our Gambling Addiction… My Cry For Help!” In it, he claimed that Jordan had racked up a debt of $1.25 million, which he negotiated down to $300,000.
After two internal investigations, Jordan came out clean and made his meteoric comeback bringing the Bulls another NBA championship and the fourth into the GOAT history.
Michael Jordan walks off the court during the NBA All-Star Game 2016 at the Air Canada Centre on February 14, 2016. | Source: Getty Images
The five-episode docuseries questions the real killer of James Jordan and doubts many shreds of evidence presented during Daniel Green’s trial — one of the convicts of the crime.
THE ETERNAL LEGEND MJ
Michael Jordan has always been famous for being extremely competitive — sometimes called the most competitive athlete of all sports.
Michael Jordan speaks to the crowd at halftime during their game against the Duke Blue Devils at the Dean Smith Center on March 4, 2017 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. | Source: Getty Images
In a 2013 interview with ESPN, the athlete admitted to Wright Thompson that his competitiveness was an “addiction.” Despite the speculation about what made Jordan leave basketball, he is the most legendary player that the NBA will see for a long time.
In over 15 years of his career as a professional basketball player, Jordan competed with an intense passion and hunger to win. He astounded the public with every turn, inspiring many people all over the globe.
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