CHICAGO — One of the most stunning moments in the history of Chicago sports happened 30 years ago on Friday.
But the drama and eventual announcement by Michael Jordan was actually something that unfolded over the course of 15 hours and included at Major League Baseball playoff game in the city.
On October 6, 1993, in front of a sea of cameras and reporters at the Berto Center in Deerfield, Jordan announced his retirement from the game of basketball after nine seasons.
He was 3 1/2 months removed from winning his third NBA Championship and third NBA Finals MVP with the Bulls, playing the best basketball of any player in the world. That’s why Jordan’s decision stunned fans in Chicago, the United States, and around the globe as arguably the most recognizable athlete in the world was hanging it up.
“I have always stressed that when I lose the sense of motivation and the sense to prove something as a basketball player, it’s time to leave,” said Jordan of his announcement. “I never wanted to leave when my skills started to diminish, because that’s when I’d feel the foot in my back, pushing me out the door.
“My skills are still good. I am not on the downside of my career. This is the perfect time for me to walk away.”
It was indeed a very busy time in then-30-year-old Michael Jordan’s life. He’s just came off a title in June 1992 when he played in the Summer Olympic Games for Team USA in Barcelona, then another season and title in 1993.
In that time, he missed just six total games.
In July, Michael’s father, James, was murdered in North Carolina, which was a major blow to Jordan. All would play a factor in his stunning decision to step away, which actually broke during another event of prominence in Chicago sports.
The night before, on October 5, 1993, Jordan was at then Comiskey Park to throw out the first pitch for Game 1 of the White Sox American League Championship Series against the Blue Jays. It was the first playoff game for the franchise in ten years and the first postseason game staged in that ballpark.
During the game, a report from the Denver Post emerged that Jordan was planning to announce his retirement from basketball. In the pre-social media days, word traveled slow, so few in the stands every knew what was going on.
Things sped up in the top of the seventh when CBS Sports’ Pat O’Brien and Jim Gray appeared on the game broadcast to announce that a news conference had been called for the following day to announce Jordan’s retirement.
On the field, the White Sox lost to the reigning World Series champion Blue Jays 7-3, as the crowd would find out the stunning news when reaching their cars and turning on their radios.
That led to the news conference about 12 hours later in Deerfield, where Jordan made the news official in one of the biggest news stories in the history of Chicago sports that happened 30 years ago Friday.
Of course, it didn’t last, as he returned in March 1995 and would help the Bulls to three-straight championships in 1996, 1997, and 1998. Some might have gotten an indication that could happen at that news conference on October 6, 1993.
“Five years down the line, if the urge comes back, if the Bulls will have me and David Stern lets me back in the league, I may come back,” said Jordan, though the wait wasn’t nearly as long as that.