The untold story of how Michael Jordan switched from No. 45 to No. 23 with Bulls
The story of how Michael Jordan went from wearing his baseball jersey No. 45 and reverting to the familiar No. 23 upon his return to the Chicago Bulls from retirement has been told many times. Most cite Orlando Magic guard Nick Anderson as the reason for the change, as he told the press after getting a game-saving steal from the Bulls great in the 1995 Eastern Conference semifinals:
“No. 45 doesn’t explode like No. 23 used to,” Anderson said then. “No. 45 is not No. 23. I couldn’t have done that to No. 23.”
Jordan took on a $25,000 fine for the unannounced change, donning No. 23 for the Bulls’ Game 2 victory.
Yet most don’t know how Jordan ultimately was able to pull off such a snap-quick decision. Longtime Bulls equipment manager John Ligmanowski is the man behind this story:
“We had a conversation in the locker room at the Berto Center,” Ligmanowski said on NBC Sports’ Sports Uncovered podcast, referencing the Bulls’ old practice facility. “And I asked him. I said, ‘You wore No. 45 in baseball. What number do you want to wear?’ He sat there and thought for awhile. And then he decided he was going to go with the 45.
“And I said, ‘I’ll tell you what I’ll do. I’ll make the 23 up too so we’ll have both. We’ll have the 45, the 23. If you want to change your mind, I got it.’ . . . I always carried the 23 around with me in case he decided. Which it happened.”
Anderson might have been the cog that sparked the thought of changing back to No. 23, but it was Ligmanowski who made that thought a reality.
The longtime equipment manager knew the legendary No. 23 could awake at any moment, and he was ready with jersey in hand once he did.
Jordan dropped a sizzling 38 points in Game 2 upon making the switch, though the Magic wound up winning the series in six games.