Fall 1993 in his prime and at the summit of his sport, Michael Jordan walked away from pro basketball. After leading the Dream Team to a 1992 Olympic gold medal and taking the Bulls to their third consecutive NBA championship the following year, Jordan was jolted by the murder of his… [show all]-
Fall 1993 in his prime and at the summit of his sport, Michael Jordan walked away from pro basketball. After leading the Dream Team to a 1992 Olympic gold medal and taking the Bulls to their third consecutive NBA championship the following year, Jordan was jolted by the murder of his father. Was it the brutal loss of this anchor in his life that caused the world’s most famous athlete to rekindle a childhood ambition to play baseball? Or some feeling that he had nothing left to prove or conquer in basketball? Or something deeper and not yet understood? Ron Shelton, a former minor leaguer who brought his experiences to life in the classic movie “Bull Durham,” revisits Jordan’s short career in the minor leagues and explores the motivations that drove the world’s most competitive athlete to play a new sport in the relative obscurity of Birmingham, Alabama, for a young manager named Terry Francona.
Personal Statement from Ron Shelton
The sports world of the nineties began with Michael Jordan’s transcendent dominance of pro basketball. Leading the Chicago Bulls to three successive championships from 1991 through 1993, he became not just an icon in the U.S., but all over the world. He was bigger than basketball, bigger than sports.
But, in 1993, two occurrences in his life altered the course of his unparalleled career. First, was the revelation that Jordan loved to gamble. Second, on July 23, 1993, was the roadside murder of his father in North Carolina. Then, that fall, clearly and deeply shaken, Jordan shocked the sports world by announcing he was quitting basketball, and soon thereafter decided to pursue a career in baseball.
In early 1994, he signed with the Chicago White Sox and in March was assigned to the Double-A Birmingham Barons. Some in the sports media attacked him but his new team-mates embraced him. He played cards with them , took road trips, worked hard and showed up every day as if he were making a few hundred a week.
After inglorious season, Jordan quit baseball and rejoined the Bulls in March 1995. 32 years old and rusty, some questioned would he regain his greatness. He responded by leading Chicago to the best regular-season record in NBA history in the 1995–96 campaign and three more consecutive championships.
This chapter in Jordan’s life was misunderstood. Instead of being an exercise of his ego, it was quite the opposite. The press and public never allowed him to have that moment, that year away to pursue his own dream. I have a unique appreciation for how difficult this world is. The bus rides, the lack of days off, the daily routine of it all can be brutal. Pitchers are wild, lights are bad, and injuries are a daily occurrence. The greatest player of all time in one sport submits himself to the gauntlet that mere mortal athletes have to go through daily.
Having failed, his return to the NBA is all the more remarkable, and a testament to his talent and his enormous will. [hide]