In respect of Michael Jordan and all his achievements, the Miami Heat decided to retire his #23 in the rafters even though MJ never played for the franchise.
Michael Jordan is easily one of the greatest players the league has ever witnessed. Apart from being one of the most impactful players, Mike was considered a basketball god. Till today, fans rave about his insane gameplay and achievements.
After spending 13 seasons with the Chicago Bulls, leading them to 6 championships in 8 years, it was pretty obvious that the Bulls organization would surely retire MJ’s jersey number after the conclusion of his career. However, the Miami Heat, for whom His Airness never even played for, decided to retire the #23 for his honour.
During Air Jordan’s final game against Miami, then-Heat coach Pat Riley announced the retiring of the number unveiling a half-Chicago Bulls and half-Washington Wizards jersey. Riley stood at midcourt and revealed:
“In honor of your greatness and for all you’ve done for the game of basketball – and not just the NBA, but for all the fans around the world – we want to honor you tonight and hang your jersey, No. 23, from the rafters,” Heat coach Pat Riley said. “No one will ever wear No. 23 for the Miami Heat. You’re the best.”
Today in 2003, the Miami Heat retire Michael Jordan’s 23. Oddly enough, he never played for the Heat. It wasn’t until 6 years later that they actually retired a jersey for a past Heat player-Alonzo Mourning’s no. 33. #TodayInSports #HeatTwitter
— TodayInSports (@TodayInSports3) April 11, 2021
“To have your jersey retired in someone else’s building is very special”: Michael Jordan on Miami’s gesture
Many didn’t quite understand why the Heat front office decided to hang Jordan’s #23 in the rafters, even though he never played for the team. Pat explained why the idea was pretty simple – to respect what MJ has done for the game.
”Having our guys walk onto the court and look up to see how high you have to climb to reach what he has achieved is something that I think is honorable,” Riley said. ”I just believe he deserves it. The guy has been the greatest player in the history of the game, and I think it wouldn’t be a bad idea for every team in this league to hang his number in the rafters as a reminder of what greatness is all about.”
Obviously, Mike felt really humbled by the way the organisation honoured him. He revealed how the gesture was the best gift he received.
”It was by far the best gift I ever could have received,” Jordan said. ”To have your jersey retired in someone else’s building, that says a lot. … It’s definitely something very, very special.”
Back in 2010, when LeBron James joined forces with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh at Miami, the King had to change his jersey number from 23, which he wore in Cleveland, to #6. And did so without having any bad blood for Jordan. LBJ had said:
“I just think that what Michael Jordan has done for the game has to be recognized in some way soon,” James had said. “There would be no LeBron James, no Kobe Bryant, no Dwyane Wade if there wasn’t Michael Jordan first.”
Indeed it was a pretty wholesome deed by an organisation on whom MJ has dropped 30.1 points, 6.3 rebounds and 4.7 assists in the 38 games he’s played against them.