Why Did Michael Jordan Choose to Wear Number 23?

By Jennifer Mueller

When Michael Jordan started playing basketball, selecting his jersey number should have been easy -- his favorite number was 45. But that was his older brother's favorite number too, and he was already playing basketball with those digits on his jersey. "He had seniority," Jordan explained in an NBA promotional video. "I just figured 23 was half of 45 ... and 23 has just kinda stuck with me the whole time." Jordan's legendary career with the Chicago Bulls spanned 13 seasons from 1984 to 1993 and 1995 to 1998.

More Than a Number

When Jordan first retired in 1993, the Bulls retired his number. No. 23 remained available for players on other teams, however, since the NBA had no tradition of retiring jersey numbers, as has happened in the NHL and MLB. In 1995, Jordan returned to play for the Bulls after a stint playing baseball. Initially, he refused to wear No. 23 again and played wearing No. 45. That changed later in the season, when he abruptly switched back to No. 23 in the middle of the playoffs. Bulls coach Phil Jackson speculated the move was prompted by comments that Jordan wasn't as good wearing 45 as he had been when we was wearing 23.

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About the Author

Jennifer Mueller began writing and editing professionally in 1995, when she became sports editor of her university's newspaper while also writing a bi-monthly general interest column for an independent tourist publication. Mueller holds a Bachelor of Arts in political science from the University of North Carolina at Asheville and a Juris Doctor from Indiana University Maurer School of Law.

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