A portion of ESPN’s Michael Jordan documentary series will focus on the Chicago Bulls legend’s decision in 1993 to retire from professional basketball at the peak of his playing career, shocking the sports world in the process.
Jordan was just 30 years old when he announced his decision to retire on Oct. 6, 1993. At the time, Jordan said he had lost the desire to play basketball after a series of grueling seasons and the mounting toll of his celebrity status. The decision came just a few months after his father, James Jordan, was found murdered at a rest stop in North Carolina.
“I told [Bulls coach Phil Jackson], you know, I’m about here. I was done.” Jordan said in an upcoming interview for “The Last Dance.” “I have no motivation.”
Jordan’s retirement was so abrupt that it sparked a number of conspiracy theories, including a prominent claim that he stepped away from basketball as part of a deal with the late former NBA Commissioner David Stern to address his gambling habit. The NBA legend is expected to address the conspiracy theory at some point in the 10-part documentary series.
Regardless of his motivations, Jordan left the Bulls and embarked on a brief stint as a professional baseball player in the Chicago White Sox minor league system. Jordan’s father was a huge baseball fan and had hoped his son would turn pro in that sport.
Jordan played on the White Sox’s AA team for a full season in 1994, hitting just .202 with three home runs and 51 RBIs.
Scottie Pippen, Jordan’s former running mate with the Bulls, blossomed in his absence, leading Chicago to back-to-back NBA playoff appearances. However, after winning three straight NBA titles with Jordan, the Bulls failed to return to the championship during the 1993-94 and 1994-95 seasons.
Jordan’s first retirement was short-lived. With Major League Baseball embroiled in a strike, Jordan came out of retirement with a two-word announcement: “I’m back.” He officially returned to the Bulls on March 19, 1995.
With Jordan back in the fold, it didn’t take long for the Bulls to return to form. Chicago won the next three NBA titles, culminating in the 1997-98 season. Jordan retired again in 1998, only to return to the NBA a second time in 2001 to play for the Washington Wizards. He retired for a third and final time in 2003.
Episodes seven and eight of “The Last Dance” will air on Sunday night.