How Toni Kukoc knew Michael Jordan was going to unretire and rejoin Bulls

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Rob Schaefer
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How Toni Kukoc knew Michael Jordan was going to unretire originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

In the run-up to Michael Jordan breaking his first retirement to rejoin the Bulls, mystery, rumor and large swaths of media swirled about the Berto Center in force — all trying to catch a glimpse of Jordan sneaking in and out, or procure the soundbite that would foreshadow his ultimate return.

While mum was the word around the Bulls on Jordan’s plans, Toni Kukoc had a feeling he knew what was coming. He described the moment he realized for sure Jordan was planning a comeback on NBC Sports’ “Sports Uncovered” podcast.

“It was time to go practice, and once I went to the locker room and I saw about 40, 50 pairs of Jordans at his locker,” Kukoc said on the podcast. “I said to myself there is no way he’s going to one practice with 50 pairs of shoes ready.”

Kukoc’s detective work rang true. On March 18, 1995, Jordan declared his return to the NBA and the Bulls with a two-word fax that changed sports history: “I’m back.”

“From that point on, it was like the Bulls were this American team that everybody wants to see, that everybody wants to talk to,” said Kukoc, who joined the NBA and the Bulls mere months before Jordan announced his first retirement in 1993. “I felt like we had fans literally every single arena we played.”

The reverberations of the impact of Jordan’s return echoed throughout every niche of the NBA world — from players to media to executives to fans, including LeBron James.

Hear more from those orbiting Jordan during that time in his career on the “Sports Uncovered” podcast here.

Click here to subscribe to the Sports Uncovered Podcast for free.