Imagine if Lebron James abruptly quit the NBA to try to make an NFL roster having not played football since high school.
That’s essentially what Michael Jordan did when he stepped away from basketball after the 1992-1993 season to try his hand at professional baseball.
MJ had just won his third NBA Championship in a row. He averaged more than 41 points during the six-game series on the heels of a regular season in which he averaged 32.6 points per game. The end of the season marked his seventh-straight scoring title, and he was on top of the game.
However, rumors swirled that Jordan was souring toward the game he loved and gave blood, sweat, and tears to for so many years.
In a shock move unparalleled in the world of sports, Jordan announced his retirement from the NBA in October of 1993. His father had been murdered three months prior by a pair of teenagers, and Jordan cited this as a significant contributing factor in the decision. Jordan’s father had always hoped he’d be a professional baseball player.
Four months later, Jordan signed a minor league contract with the Chicago White Sox. He joined one of the team’s minor league affiliates, the Birmingham Barons, in late March, 1994.
Statistically, here’s how Jordan’s Double-A effort looked: .202 average. Three home runs. 51 runs batted in. 30 stolen bases,
While Jordan’s marks weren’t impressive enough to earn him a spot on a major league roster, but it was still impressive for a guy who hadn’t swung a bat in a decade to be able to even hit a ball in the minors.
And it wasn’t for lack of trying. Jordan brought the entirety of his legendary work ethic to the baseball diamond and the batting cage.
Jordan took batting practice for up to an hour-and-a-half before practice. He’d follow that by three hours of practice, and then he was back in the cage. Predictably, this took a toll on Jordan’s palms, which were more used to holding a basketball than a baseball bat. His palms were worn raw and ripped open. Trainers had to put clear patches over his palms and then layers of tape over that.
And after the game, Jordan often took batting practice again—something which virtually no players have ever done. He’d frequently be seen hitting balls as late as 11 p.m. or midnight.
Unfortunately, even with all his hard work, it was clear to MJ he’d never make a major league roster. In March of 1995, he returned to NBA with arguably the greatest sports-related press release of all time.