Cover Image for “Michael Jordan was the first jersey number the Miami Heat retired in franchise history”: How Pat Riley made an odd decision to show respect the Bulls legend

“Michael Jordan was the first jersey number the Miami Heat retired in franchise history”: How Pat Riley made an odd decision to show respect the Bulls legend

Samir Mehdi
|Sun Apr 10 2022

Michael Jordan had his number 23 retired by the Miami Heat as the first number the young franchise ever retired. 

What Michael Jordan did for the game of basketball might not ever be replicated by any individual for the rest of sporting history. Magic Johnson and Larry Bird set stage for a man to carry the torch and bring about the inevitable globalization of the NBA and MJ did just that in the 1990s with the Chicago Bulls. 

The Dream Team’s time in Barcelona in 1992 certainly helped with getting people from all across the world invested in basketball and more importantly, the NBA, but it was Michael Jordan who stood out the most.

Also read: “LeBron James is unbelievable; one of the best players in the world”: When Michael Jordan acknowledged the constant comparisons between himself and the Lakers superstar

The accomplishments that Jordan achieved all throughout his illustrious career are perhaps the most well-known of any superstar who’s come and gone in the NBA. Everything from 6 Finals MVPs to 10 scoring titles, the UNC Tar Heel alum did it all in merely 14 years with the Bulls. 

The respect he garnered was on the level of what legends like Bill Russell and Julius Erving commanded, if not more. So much so that franchises he never played for decided to bestow upon him the ultimate post-career honor. 

Michael Jordan gets his jersey retired by the Miami Heat in 2003. 

Michael Jordan had been a part of the NBA longer than the Miami Heat had been a franchise by the time he decided to leave the game of professional basketball for the 3rd and final time. Formed in 1988, the Heat had not had a single player’s jersey retired. That is, until April 11th, 2003.

Also read: “Voshon Lenard, you can’t guard me, not tonight. Why are you even trying?”: When Michael Jordan talked trash to the Heat star and delivered on the same

While on his farewell tour, Jordan’s Wizards played against the Miami Heat on the aforementioned date. Heat team president, Pat Riley, decided to give MJ the ultimate honor of not only having his no. 23 retired by the Heat, but have that number be the first jersey retired in their franchise’s history. 

“No one will ever wear No. 23 for the Miami Heat. You’re the best,” said Riley.

Riley had a storied history of disappointment with Michael Jordan, with the latter beating down on his early 90s Knicks teams and his late 90s Heat teams in the Playoffs over and over again. Kudos to Riley for putting those moments aside and showing the greatest player of all time some love. 

Pete Maravich is the only other player in league history to have a jersey retired by two teams with one of them being a team he never suited up for. 

About the author
Samir Mehdi

Samir Mehdi

Covering everything from Wilt Chamberlain's offensive goaltending games in 1962 to Ja Morant's points in the paint absurdity in 2022.

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