Michael Jordan postponed retirement because of Larry Bird and Magic Johnson: "If it wasn’t for that, I’d be playing baseball this summer"

Michael Jordan's first retirement in 1993 shocked the basketball world. At that point, the Chicago Bulls superstar was already regarded as one of the greatest players ever, and so everyone was caught off guard that he wanted to walk away from basketball instead of further enhancing his legacy. 

However, Jordan's first retirement would've come even earlier if it wasn't for Jordan's obsession with surpassing Larry Bird and Magic Johnson.

"I'm going to shock the world. I'm going to quit and play baseball," Michael Jordan told Mark Vancil. "Well, I'd do it now, except Bird and Magic never won 3 in-a-row. And I got to do the Olympics. But if it wasn't for that, I'd be playing [baseball] this summer." 

MJ's first retirement

No one really took Mike's words seriously. After all, Jordan was just 29 years old, with a thriving career and a healthy body, so no one really expected him to call it quits that early into his NBA run.

It's an interesting anecdote that goes to show that Jordan had been thinking about saying goodbye to the game for quite a while. He didn't just wake up one day and suddenly got fed up from playing basketball; it had been on his mind for more than a year.

But it wasn't just that Michael lost his desire to play basketball. According to sportswriter Sam Smith, there were other reasons that pushed MJ to bid goodbye to the sport he loves.

"There were stories written that were horrible and that, I think, helped push him over the edge toward retirement in '93 – stories that were raising questions or making suggestions that maybe his father was murdered because of him or because of his gambling debts," Smith said, per HoopsHype. 

A different mindset

Some old heads are appalled by how the superstars of today openly join forces to win multiple titles, and Jordan's comments show that his mindset was different. 

He saw the likes of Magic and Bird as players he wanted to surpass. To wear the same jerseys would be apocryphal. Back in the day, players were concerned about not just winning a title but how they won it. For them, beating their rivals was the sweetest form of victory.

We can say that ring culture has existed for quite a while. When Jordan won back-to-back titles, he was happy and pleased until he realized that the greats that came before him — Larry and Magic—had never won three straight. He wanted to eclipse the two, so he gave it another shot before calling it quits.

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