How Nick Anderson Provoked Bulls’ Michael Jordan to Switch His Jersey No. Back to 23

Published 03/18/2021, 4:30 AM EDT
LAS VEGAS – MAY 05: Hall of fame NBA player Michael Jordan looks on during the fight between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Oscar De La Hoya during their WBC super welterweight championship fight at the MGM Grand Garden Arena May 5, 2007 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Mayweather defeated De La Hoya by split decision. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)


While the world was celebrating the Chicago Bulls’ third championship in a row in 1993, thanks to Michael Jordan, MJ’s life spiraled out-of-control right after. His father was tragically killed that year in July, and the NBA world saw the aftermath of the tragedy when Jordan shocked everyone by announcing his retirement.

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However, Jordan only ended up taking a sabbatical. After trying his hands at baseball for a year and a half, playing for Birmingham Barons, the legend itched to come back to the league where he belonged. In 1995, Jordan was back, but not everything was the same.

Nick Anderson poked the bear

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The jersey number of a player often defines him as it holds some sort of significance. Does the number 23 sound familiar? Well, NBA fans right now might affiliate it with LeBron James. But it was Jordan who made this number wildly famous in the world of basketball.

Before his retirement, Jordan used to wear the number ’23,’ and he made it the most popular number in the NBA. But on his return, he ended up with the number ’45’ instead, although it did not stay that way for very long and Nick Anderson is to blame for this.

Chicago Bulls All-Star forward # 23 Michael Jordan playing against New York Knick # 20 Rolando Blackman at Madison Square Garden. (Photo by Tom Berg/WireImage)

When the Bulls were up against the Orlando Magic in game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals, Anderson did the unthinkable. He stole the ball from MJ and even sealed a victory.

Adding fuel to the fire were his post-game comments. He mocked Jordan and stated, “No. 45 doesn’t explode like No. 23 used to. No. 45 is not No. 23. I couldn’t have done that to No. 23.”

Michael Jordan switched back jerseys out of spite

Given how competitive Jordan was, he could not simply stand by and get insulted. In Game 2 against the Magic, he was already wearing the No. 23, and the franchise had to bear the brunt with a $25,000 fine for the unannounced move. However, it was their equipment manager, John Ligmanowski, who was responsible for the switch.

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“We had a conversation in the locker room at the Berto Center,” Ligmanowski said. “And I asked him. I said, ‘You wore No. 45 in baseball. What number do you want to wear?’ He sat there and thought for a while. And then he decided he was going to go with the 45. And I said, ‘I’ll tell you what I’ll do. I’ll make the 23 up too, so we’ll have both. We’ll have the 45, the 23. If you want to change your mind, I got it.’… I always carried the 23 around with me in case he decided. Which it happened.”

DATE: 10/20/01 PHOTO BY : JOEL RICHARDSON DIG MICHAEL JORDAN AND THE WIZARDS HOST NEW JERSEY NETS (Photo by The Washington Post via Getty Images)

In that game, MJ scored 38 points against the Orlando Magic. He ended up sticking with that jersey after that, and that might have to do with why fans saw three more titles being added to the Chicago Bulls dynasty.

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Read also- A Brief History of Michael Jordan Jerseys and the Interesting Stories Behind Them

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Yashima Bhatia

1122 articles

Yashima Bhatia is an NBA writer for EssentiallySports who specialises in providing nuanced predictions and updates for matches. She has a Bachelor's degree in journalism and mass communication. Yashima's love for playing the game came up at a young age, when the excitement of the games coupled with the intensity of the Playoffs had her hooked.

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