Before considering a comeback for the second time in 2001, Michael Jordan had reportedly reached out to NHL legend Mario Lemieux for advice.
Michael Jordan’s first retirement sent shockwaves around the league in 1993 when the 6-time champ decided to play baseball instead. The comeback in 1995 was even more surprising when a young core of Shaq and Penny Hardaway sent the Bulls packing in 6 games.
Hence, when the second retirement came around in 1998 after another 3-peat, fans felt that it was the right time. MJ could sign off on the highest of highs.
We were wrong, again.
Jordan decided to return to the NBA again in 2000. Not as a player this time though, but as part-owner and president of basketball operations with the Washington Wizards. It would not be very long, however, before rumblings of yet another possible comeback would surface.
He was reportedly inspired by his friend and NHL legend Mario Lemieux, who had recently undergone a similar journey of his own. After announcing his retirement from the league in 1997, Mario had acquired his own team and made a comeback in 2000 as a player.
Mario Lemieux and Michael Jordan talked several times at length while Jordan was contemplating a second return to the league.
Lemieux was nearly back to being the same player he had been before retiring in 1997. This surprised Jordan, who now felt the urge to replicate the same feat. He had long conversations with Lemieux regarding the amount of preparation he might require to reach his peak again.
He finally went on to announce his return to the league as a player in 2001, while remaining owner. His objective was not to win a championship this time around, though. As Mario had suggested, it was just so he could experience competing in a sport again, one which he loved so dearly.
While MJ wasn’t able to replicate the success of Lemieux, his time with the Wizards definitely proved the doubters wrong. His 43-point game at age 40 remains one of the most astounding performances in NBA history.