Michael Jordan basketball number
The circumstances were unique in both cases. When Jordan wore No. 45, he had spent several months wearing the same number with the Birmingham Barons, a Double A affiliate of the Chicago White Sox. Upon returning to the NBA, Jordan sported the same digits he later described as his “favorite” in high school.
For most of his career, Jordan was synonymous with the No. 23. His accomplishments lent the number a sort of validation. The best player of the post-Jordan era, LeBron James, has rocked 23 for the majority of his career. After David Beckham wore No. 7 at English Premier League power Manchester United for years, he switched to No. 23 when he joined Spanish Club Real Madrid. One popular theory was that it was a nod to Jordan.
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On one February night 25 years ago, however, Jordan’s trademark No. 23 jersey was the subject of a minor controversy.
The Bulls traveled to Orlando to face the Magic. Chicago was making the final stop of a six-game road swing that also included games in Houston, San Antonio, Los Angeles, Denver and, one night before the matchup with the Magic, Miami. Chicago entered with a 29-19 record but had lost four of its last five games, while Orlando, at 14-33, had dropped three of four.
The Magic were in the midst of their first season, while Chicago was under the charge of a first-year coach, Phil Jackson. At this point in Jordan’s career, he had already won one Most Valuable Player award and earned five All-Star appearances, including during the 1989-90 campaign. That season, he led the league in scoring at 33.6 points per game while playing all 82 regular-season games.
But No. 23 did miss one game that season, although Jordan did not. On Valentine’s Day, MJ wore No. 12 instead of his iconic number. The sequence of events surrounding the jersey swap are not entirely clear, but a few details seem plausible in retrospect. Of the people familiar with the event who spoke to SI.com, there was an agreement on some basic points.Photo: Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty Images
Jordan’s No. 23 jersey is believed to have been stolen on the day of the game. The Bulls did not bring a backup No. 23 jersey with them, but the team did have a just-in-case No. 12 kit bearing no name on the back. Sam Smith, who covered the game for the Chicago Tribune and now writes for Bulls.com, remembered a search in the crowd for a No. 23 jersey that would fit Jordan’s 6’6’’ frame.