March 18, 1995.......
I'll never forget where, when and how I got the news Michael Jordan was returning to the NBA.
Jordan announced he was returning to basketball after a nearly 18-months away. His return came just eight days after announcing the end of his baseball career after spending the previous season playing Double-A baseball for the Birmingham Barons in the Chicago White Sox organization.
The news came a Saturday. I was working at WVMP, AM100 Radio in Chicago. The news came by fax.
I had just wrapped up my weekly Saturday show with radio partner and former Chicago Bulls/Cincinnati Royals guard Norm Van Lier. It was a beautiful day in Chicago. We were ready to bolt as soon as the microphones turned off.
We collected our headphones and notes and were walking down the hallway on the 37th floor of our studios in the John Hancock Building in downtown Chicago.
I happened to hear the sound of our sports office fax machine start to crank up. I don't know why, but I decided to turn around and walk back to check the fax.
I stood over the machine, waiting for the transmission. Little did I know all that was about to change. The fax paper started to slide from the machine. The first half of the page spit out was blank. Then......the words appeared:
The opening paragraph would reveal it was a statement released from Michael Jordan, through his agent, David Faulk.
I almost passed out. I ran to catch Norm, who was waiting at the elevator.
I remember yelling, "Norm!, we've gotta go back on the air!"
I showed him the fax. I'd joke with him for years later that at that point I saw a black man turn white.
We bolted into the studio and told our the board operator we had to go on the air. The station was in syndicated programming. I don't even remember what show we were carrying.
I quickly called our boss to explain the situation. I remember him yelling through the phone, "GOOOOOOOO!"
We broke in and spent the next couple of hours breaking the news and taking calls from Bulls fans.
Jordan was 31 years old at the time. He's already won three rings and two MVP awards when he opted to walk away from the NBA. The shocking decision followed the tragic murder of his father, but included whispers of a possible gambling suspension from NBA commissioner David Stern.
At the time of his return, the Bulls were muddling along at 34-32. Amazingly, Jordan would suite up two days later as the Bulls visited the Indiana Pacers at Market Square Arena in Indianapolis. Jordan scored 19 points, but hit just 7 of 28 shots in his 43 minutes. The Bulls lost 103-96.
But five days later, Jordan dropped a double-nickel, 55 points on the Knicks at Madison Square Garden.
He would play the final 17 games of the regular season, averaging 26.9 points, but shooting just 41-percent from the field.
The Bulls disposed of the Cleveland Cavaliers in the opening round of the Eastern Conference playoffs, 3-1. But were then knocked out by Penny Hardaway, Shaq and the Orlando Magic in the semi-finals by, 4-2.
In Game One of that series the Magic trailed by one with 10 seconds to go when Nick Anderson stole the ball from Jordan and passed ahead to former Bull Horace Grant for the game-winning layup. Jordan looked old.
But Jordan would spend the offseason getting all the way back into shape and returned with a vengeance the following season. The Bulls would complete their second 'three-peat' of the Jordan/Scottie Pippen/Phil Jackson era, winning the next three NBA titles. Jordan averaged 30.4, 29.6 and 28.7 over those seasons, winning two more MVP's.
24 years later it's all still hard to comprehend.