Michael Jordan returned to the NBA in mid-March of 1995, with just a few weeks left in the regular season. Jordan had been away from the league for 21 months, his body was made for baseball and his conditioning wasn’t adequate.
The Bulls face a young, talented Magic team in the second round of the playoffs and they lost the series in six games. MJ made two costly turnovers in the final minutes of Game 1 and seeing him and the Bulls struggle to close a game was highly unusual, to say the least.
“Being away from the game that long and just how much the body had changed, I was very unsure that he could perform at the level that he’s accustomed to performing on a regular basis,” Tim Grover, Michael Jordan’s trainer, said.
Jordan dedicated the entire summer to prove that he was still the best player in the NBA.
“I honestly think one of the best things that could’ve possibly happened, as much as everyone hates losing, is that we lost to Orlando,” former teammate Bill Wennington explained. “Because Michael came back with a vengeance.”
Michael Jordan asked Grover to help him get his body ready for the next season. Jordan had no days off while filming Space Jam over the summer. He still did weight training and pickup games at “the Jordan Dome,” a facility at Warner Brothers Studio that was built for him. Training there helped Jordan get ready to be the best version of himself.
“I don’t know how he did it,” Reggie Miller stated in episode 8 of ‘The Last Dance’. “I don’t know how he filmed all day and then had the energy to play three hours. We would play until 9 or 10 at night, and he’d still have to get weightlifting in, and then his call time was at like 6 or 7 in the morning, so I don’t know how. This dude was like a vampire.”
Jordan’s will to win, which was evident in college and in his first years in the NBA, led to a 72-win season. The Bulls also got payback against the Magic, sweeping them in the Eastern Conference Finals before winning their fourth NBA Championship, beating the Seattle SuperSonics.
Cedric Maxwell, two-time NBA champion with the Celtics and 1981 NBA Finals MVP told Eduardo Solano from SBR Picks and AccuScore what it was like to play against a young MJ:
“Michael was young and the rosters he played on were not even remotely close to what most people remember from his six championships. We all knew some kid named Michael Jordan was going to be a high impact player but very few people actually knew just how game-changing he’d become.”