On this day: March 18, 1995 - Michael Jordan returned for the first time

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As the NBA season enters the Spring, the Golden State Warriors are in hot pursuit of their second consecutive NBA Championship with a phenomenal current regular season record of 61-6.

The famous Chicago Bulls side of 1995-96 set the record to beat when they amassed 72 victories and only 10 defeats en route to the organisation's fourth of six NBA Championships.

That title gave the great Michael Jordan one of his six championship rings, but only two years prior it looked like the legendary shooting guard had dropped his last basket.

Warriors point Stephen Curry is the new generation-defining talent who is breaking records at an almost alarming rate. If the reigning MVP and his Warrior comrades are to finally dislodge one of the all-time great NBA sides from a worthy record, it's important to understand how the great feat came to be.

And it started with two words back on March 18, 21 years ago.

"I'm Back."

To the surprise of just about everyone, Jordan stepped away from basketball to pursue a career in baseball at the age of 30, citing a lack of desire to play the game as his primary reasoning.

It's difficult to convey just how big of a deal this was; it's like Lionel Messi, Novak Djokovic or Floyd Mayweather walking away from their respective sports at the apex of their powers.

Jordan was in his prime. At his point of retirement, he had just enjoyed a seven-year run where he claimed seven scoring titles and three championships, the last of which came in the 1993 finals, mere months before his announcement.

It made very little sense, but Jordan had to go away and find his hunger again before he could grace the hardwood with his unrivalled competitiveness once again.

After around 18 months in the wilderness, Jordan arrived back in Chicago after his run in the minor baseball leagues came to a close. An ongoing strike would force him to abandon his hopes of realising his late farther's dream for him: to be an MLB superstar.

But, Jordan still had plenty of other dreams to realise and now, much more to prove.

He tentatively showed up to the Bulls' practice facility, the Berto Center, in early March and within 10 days Jordan would throw himself back into the hysteria he had been so desperate to escape.

He didn't indicate he was training for a comeback, but once his hunger and passion reverberated around the gym, it changed everything for the Bulls.

That season, Chicago were lingering around the low seeds in an Eastern Conference they had previously dominated with Jordan. The now-owner of the Charlotte Hornets dropped 19 points on his return against the Indiana Pacers and that fixture had the highest Nielsen rating of a regular season NBA game since 1975.

Only 10 days after his initial, concise press release, Jordan dropped 55 points at Madison Square Garden against the New York Knicks to truly announce his return.

The Illinois franchise would fall at the conference semi-finals upon MJ's return in 1995, but that end of season sample was just a prelude of what a revitalised Jordan planned to unleash on the NBA. 

The 1995-96 campaign was groundbreaking. The Bulls became the proud owners of the best regular-season record - sure - but Jordan's feats of excellence after a substantial time away were mind-boggling.

In 1996, Jordan was the league's leading scorer, NBA All-First Team, All-Defensive First Team, MVP, Finals MVP, All-Star game MVP and of course, NBA Champion.

That's straight-up ridiculous.

Jordan's one-man crusade doesn't mean he didn't have a great supporting cast - Scottie Pippen, in particular, will go down as an all-time great - it just shows his insistence on being the best.

His drive to prove his doubters wrong is the same fire being lit under the Warriors today. If Steve Kerr and his troops are to go ahead and dislodge such a sensational story of triumph from the record books, they might just need a little bit of Michael Jordan fire.

Can Steph Curry and co. provide that?

Eastern Conference
Central Division
Pacific Division
Western Conference
Michael Jordan
Golden State Warriors
Chicago Bulls

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