"I'm back": the phrase that changed history

It is 26 years since the famous phrase with which Michael Jordan announced his return to the NBA, an episode that changed the history of basketball.


"I'm back." With this simple phrase, the history of modern basketball changed. Those two very short words were enough for Michael Jordan to announce his return to the slopes on March 18, 1995, 26 years ago. It was in a press release that went around the world and that everything that could be magnified within an NBA that has always known how to take advantage of this type of announcement to reach all corners of the planet. It was not be for lowerly. David Stern rubbed his hands with a return that was to blow up television audiences again, only partially maintained in the Rockets' two consecutive rings, the only two that Jordan allowed and his eternal (and eternal) figure in eight years.

The advertisement spread like wildfire and occupied, as two years before the one of its withdrawal had done, the pages of all the newspapers. "The Beatles and Elvis are back," said Larry Brown, then head coach of the Indiana Pacers, before Jordan's first game since his return. The Bulls fell in Idianapolis with 19 points and a capricious series of shots (7 of 28) from the shooting guard, but the game drew more television audiences than any other regular season in history.

There are many theories as to why Jordan left the NBA. Phil Jackson always maintained that he saw him down at certain moments of the regular season, something he had never appreciated in the shooting guard, who in the 1993 Finals against the Suns scored 31, 42, 44, 55, 41 and 33 points. Of course, he was in good shape and his coach even appealed to God to keep playing. "He has given you the talent to make people happy," said the Zen Master. "God is telling me to change," Jordan replied. Then certain news were made public that spoke of the desire of the star to retire after the Dream Team that won the Barcelona Olympic Games in 1992, although it was the death of his father in July of that same year, murdered just a month after confirming The three peat in a Lumberton, North Carolina highway rest area, which theoretically pushed him out of basketball and into baseball, fulfilling a promise made to his late father.

The official version, the one in which the player himself assured that he no longer enjoyed basketball as before, always contrasted with the unofficial version, that of gossip, who spoke of huge gambling debts that became a scandal that David Stern was already unable to hide. The theory, never proven, spoke of a pact between the commissioner and Air Jordan, whose history of departure and return came very well for the construction of the story that Stern himself originated and that allowed the last three years of the Bulls to be almost remembered. like an epic.

The human Jordan

Whether the rumors are true or not, the reality is that the year of his return was the only year of his career in which Michael Jordan was vulnerable and the only one in which he managed to beat the Bulls with the guard on the track since that in 1990 the Pistons of the Bad Boys and their Jordan Rules stopped them in the Eastern finals. And also the only one in which they fell below 50 victories with Phil Jackson on the bench, who in the previous season had led Chicago to an unexpected 55-27 record despite the absence of the prodigal son. The 1994-95 had more difficulties; the franchise was swimming in a sea of doubts and the arguments between Scottie Pippen and Jerry Krause, General Manager, damaged the spiritual chemistry, so important always for Uncle Phil. This did not translate into the level of the forward, who was having the best individual season of his career, but it did translate into an inconsistent squad and who had late-game problems.In one way or another, Jordan's influence was noticed automatically, and his mere presence allowed the Bulls to go from a 34-31 record to a 47-35 record. With the shooting guard, they have won 13 of the last 17 games, a final that allowed them to sneak into fifth place in the East when they had previously fooled about being even out of the playoffs. Jordan only took five games to touch the glory and amaze the world scoring 55 points at Madison Square Garden and averaging 26.9 in those 17 games, with 7 rebounds and 5 assists. But his body, almost chiseled in ebony, was not the same as before and the inactivity was reflected in 41% in shots from the field with which he was shooting. The Bulls beat the Hornets in the first round, but were beaten in the semifinals by the Magic of Shaquille O'Neal and Penny Hardaway, who were flying into the Finals. The center averaged 24 points, 13 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 blocks in that series, while Jordan went to 31 per game, but with errors in the decisive moments of his improper games. In the sixth and final he was at 24 points with 8 of 19 shooting, and although he showed a good defensive level (4 steals and 4 blocks) he lost key balls (6 losses at the conclusion) that cost them the tie.

The inhuman Jordan

After the calm came the storm. Jordan trained like a maniac that summer after the elimination and the tyranny of the Bulls was once again the tonic that dominated the League. And he did it more than ever. The 1995-96 finished with a 72-10 that was historic and with the guard sweeping: 30.4 points, 6.6 rebounds and 4.3 assists with almost 50% in field shots and making a triplet of MVPs: regular season , All Star and Finals, in which they beat the Sonics of Gary Payton, Shawn Kempt and George Karl on the benches in a series that began dominating 3-0 and ended 4-2. Before, they had their revenge against the Magic in the Eastern finals with a 4-0 that was not answered. There was also no history the following year, this time with a 69-13 record and winning the Jazz in the Finals with Steve Kerr's famous winning shot (also 4-2), who had the team just after Jordan's first retirement. .

In that second three peat, confirmed in the second consecutive victory against Jazz that on that occasion arrived as favorites and after another season of 60 victories (62 specifically), the quartermaster of the first triplet (DJ Armstrong, John Paxson, Horace Grant) it was replaced by players of more renown still. Beyond Kerr himself, very important at certain times but with little prominence in terms of minutes, Toni Kukoc and above all, Dennis Rodman complemented Pippen and Jordan along with Ron Harper, Luc Longley or John Salley. Those three years, especially the first two, were the most dominant that any team has had in history, and the subsequent hierarchy of the Lakers of Shaq and Kobe or more recently that of the Warriors has partially forgotten, also by a generational theme in which the fans idolize more the players they grew up with, those Bulls. If the first three championships elevated Jordan to the Olympus, the last three ended up elevating his legend.

Jordan would not return to be after his return the player who had averaged 37 points per game ten years earlier or who had joined for the first time in history the MVP of the season and the award for Best Defender in the same year (1988, with a 35 + 8 + 8 on average). But his intelligence was greater, the way he had to involve his teammates more despite giving fewer assists or influencing the rival with his mere presence. The privileged physique was affected less than others with age, but his decline, although slower, was replaced by a series of fundamentals that completed him as a player. And they did not make him worse, quite the opposite; Without going any further, he averaged 29 points and 6 rebounds in 1998 and at the age of 35, he joined the three MVPs for the second time in his career. And his last top scorer title, the tenth in a career in which he retired, as in so many other things, with more than anyone else.The "I'm back" 2.0

There was yet another chapter in Jordan's career, an epilogue that began with a new "I'm back." He had officially retired after the 1998 Finals, and the lockout that took place was imminent at the time, as were the Bulls' board games with Jordan, Pippen and Phil Jackson, led by Jerry Krause. Ultimately, the three went their own way even though during the year they had not ruled out a possible assault on the seventh ring. Jordan retired and arrived at the offices of the Wizards in 2001, and many still hypothesized about a possible return before that same year he told his confidant Ashmad Rashad in an interview broadcast on American television that there was a 0.01 % chance that he would return to the slopes. Never has such a small percentage generated so much hope.

At least for some, because Jordan's second return, unlike the first, did not have the unanimous approval of the fans or analysts. Many of them thought that the winning shot in Game 6 of the 1998 Finals at the Delta Center over Byron Russell was the ideal finishing touch to a historic career. However, the confirmation of his return came two weeks after the 9/11 attacks, something that had a significant influence. Distracting a country dismayed by such an attack suited the political class and an NBA that saw the possibility of telling one last story about the legend. Of course, the escort returned to give his own version of events: "I return for the love of the game," he said.

Jordan's last two seasons didn't spoil a flawless career. 23 + 5 + 5 in the first, in which the Washington Wizards, with whom he played these campaigns, were fifth in the East before the All Star and the injuries of the guard, which tormented him, causing the capitalists to run out of the final phase. The absence of playoffs was repeated the following year, this time with 82 games played and 20 points per game, the minimum of his career (which is said soon). His last return, with two more All Stars included, did not have the success of the first, but the sold out in each stadium were repeated until his last game (16 points) in Philadelphia, against the Sixers of Iverson and Larry Brown, the man against him. which, ironies of fate, had been released on the 1995 return to the slopes.The realization that he could continue to perform at a high level despite his 40 years became evident, as well as that the first comeback would be the one that changed the modern NBA. The original, so to speak. That I'm back who copied covers and changed the sign of a story that cannot be written or told without the figure of Michal Jordan. Nobody knows what would have happened if he had not retired. Nor if he had never returned. We know that he returned and that he did it through the front door, on March 18, 1995. 26 years ago. A quarter century. Almost nothing.

Photos from as.com
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