There are some things that are just awkward to look at. Hakeem Olajuwon in a Raptors jersey, Shawn Kemp playing for the Cavs, Scottie Pippen for the Rockets…
A few years prior to that, it was Michael Jordan wearing number 45.
Although it only lasted twenty-two games, Jordan looks back on that short time as a mistake. “When I came back, I didn’t want to play in the last number that my father had seen me wear,” Jordan said. “Because he wasn’t around, I thought of my return as a new beginning.”
Jordan even calls it bad luck, despite having a top fifty highlight reel with his new number.
When he returned to the court, he looked as fresh as ever and even a few months of play those highlights looked better than most player’s careers. When the Bulls made the playoffs and won past the Charlotte Hornets, they geared up for the Orlando Magic in the Eastern Conference Finals. And after Game 1, everything changed for Jordan, again.
“We were shocked…the whole bench was shocked” said Bulls guard Steve Kerr.
“”No. 45 doesn’t explode like No. 23 used to,” Anderson told reporters after Orlando’s Game 1 victory. “No. 45 is not No. 23. I couldn’t have done that to No. 23.”
Well, it was one last change that was necessary. He went back to 23 after the game and the Bulls won game 2. Seems like the superstition did its part, not to mention that it was Jordan’s 23rd game of the 1994-95 season/playoff run. While Jordan and the Bulls did a deal under the table to go back to #23, it didn’t come without a cost. The NBA fined the Bulls $25,000 after each game of the series, totaling up to $100,000.
Maybe the constant payments meant a distraction for the Bulls (they probably didn’t care) but Jordan certainly wasn’t the same and the Bulls lost in six games. The next season, #23 came back for good and revenge. Even though Jordan wearing number 45 looks more like some sort of joke on a silly sitcom, he should be remembered for still making excellent basketball plays. He averaged 26.9 PPG in the 1994-95 season and averaged 29.6 PPG while wearing #45 during the playoffs. The only difference between the jersey numbers came between winning and losing on a crucial play.