Phil Jackson: Michael Jordan's 1993 Retirement Was 'Denying a Gift to Society'

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistMay 11, 2020

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 21: Head Coach Phil Jackson of the Chicago Bulls is seen with Michael Jordan #23 of the Chicago Bulls before the game against the Los Angeles Clippers on November 21, 1997 at the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 1997 NBAE (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)
Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

Phil Jackson was unable to convince Michael Jordan to reverse course on his decision to retire in 1993.

During the seventh episode of The Last Dance, Chicago Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf said he didn't attempt to sell Jordan on continuing to play basketball but told MJ he should meet with Jackson before making up his mind.

Jackson and Jordan spoke privately in Jackson's office at Berto Center, the Bulls' training facility. Jackson said he ultimately accepted the final outcome: "This was, you know, a young man that had gone through some heart-rending things. You're denying a gift to society, but I understand. You know, I understand."

Jordan was only 30 when he stepped away from the NBA for the first time, an age when few—if any—superstars voluntarily decide to hang it up.

However, he had already been a three-time champion, three-time MVP and nine-time All-Star to that point. Sure, there are always more championships and MVPs to win, but one can see why MJ felt he had achieved everything he wanted in basketball.

Jordan also explained how playing baseball was an idea his father had first proposed and a dream they shared together. James Jordan was murdered in July 1993, and The Last Dance noted how speculation regarding his death helped spur Jordan's retirement.

Of course, his baseball sojourn was brief, in part because of the strike that ended the 1994 MLB season, and he was back to provide his "gift" to NBA fans in March 1995.