/The Punch That Woke Up Michael Jordan

The Punch That Woke Up Michael Jordan

After the 1992-93 NBA season, the league’s star – Michael Jordan – did something that shocked the sports world. He retired.

Jordan had just led the Chicago Bulls to a third straight NBA title. He led the league in scoring for the seventh straight season, but his streak of regular season MVP awards did end that year. Tiring of his celebrity, Jordan hung up his sneakers and gave minor league baseball a shot.

It didn’t take long, but His Airness would return to the game he loved. It was nearing the end of the 1994-95 season when Jordan announced simply “I’m back.” He played in 17 games and led the Bulls, who were 31-31 at one point, into the playoffs. 

Chicago would win its first-round playoff series, but the Bulls were eliminated in the conference semifinals by Orlando. Was the Michael Jordan NBA fans knew to be the best player in the world slowly withering away?

Not a chance, but it took Steve Kerr to wake Jordan up. 

Early in the 1995-96 season, the Bulls were practicing. Kerr had been with the team about two months at this point. Head coach Phil Jackson put Kerr opposite Jordan with a little twist. Jackson gave Kerr all the offensive calls. Kerr knew exactly what Jordan would do on each possession.

This, of course, infuriated Jordan. Kerr fouled Jordan hard and when it was all said and done the current Golden State head coach had taken a Jordan right hand to the face. 

Kerr and Jordan would spend 20 minutes apologizing to each other. Jordan even called Kerr later that evening to continue the apology.

Jackson believes it was that punch that woke Jordan up. The Bulls would go on to set an NBA record with 72 wins that season. Jordan was at his finest. He led the league in scoring – again! – averaging 30.4 points per game. He won the regular season MVP award for the fourth time and led the Bulls to another NBA championship. Along with the title, he claimed yet another NBA Finals MVP.

Jordan would go on to lead Chicago to another three-peat, win a few more scoring titles, and claim a couple more MVPs all thanks to that punch.

Rick Bouch