Skip Bayless wants answers on the decades-old conspiracy theory that Michael Jordan’s first NBA retirement was actually a forced suspension.
Jordan shocked the world in 1993 when he left the NBA after winning his third straight title to pursue a career in baseball. Retiring in the prime of his career rather than cementing himself as the greatest NBA player of all time went against everything Bayless perceives the legendary competitor to be.
Jordan has maintained that his baseball detour was meant to fulfill the wishes of his late father. But there have always been conspiracies surrounding his first retirement, with some believing it was a sort of wink-and-nudge suspension from then-NBA commissioner David Stern who was set on punishing Jordan for his notorious gambling escapades.
On the latest episode of his The Skip Bayless Show podcast, the FS1 host was asked to offer the one question he would like to ask Michael Jordan if given the chance at a no-holds-barred interview.
“I would ask him this question,” Bayless began. “Michael, is the speculation true that the NBA commissioner forced you to take almost two seasons away from the NBA in part because you liked to play golf and cards with and against professional gamblers? And that the year you played Minor League Baseball in Birmingham just gave you something to do while you were effectively suspended.”
It is wild to think Jordan’s first retirement may have been caused by the NBA, while his second was caused by the Chicago Bulls’ desire to dismantle their dynasty and rebuild. Jordan retired three times from the NBA, and his first two retirements may not have been by choice.
Bayless has long peddled Jordan’s gambling conspiracy theory, believing the six-time NBA champion would have won eight titles had he not taken a hiatus, whether that was forced or not.
“What I always heard in my year in Chicago around the ’98 Bulls was that Jordan’s break from basketball had a lot to do with gambling. Even the appearance of it got so bad that David Stern, who denied this repeatedly, encouraged Michael to step away,” Bayless said during a 2020 episode of Undisputed.
“Michael Jordan was forced out of the league in 1993,” Bayless reiterated definitively last year.
Bayless’s desire to get answers surrounding Jordan is shared by many basketball fans. For Bayless, however, there’s even more significance behind the need to know whether Jordan was suspended. If he was indeed suspended, it gives Bayless more fuel in arguing Jordan is better than LeBron James, a debate the hot take artist attached his career to years ago.
Maybe Jordan would have won eight straight if he wasn’t “suspended,” as Bayless believes. Maybe the Bulls would have been forced to keep their roster intact if they were vying for a ninth straight championship during the lockout shortened 1998-99 season. Or maybe, Jordan really did just want to play baseball as a way of coping with the loss of his father. But unless Bayless gets that no holds barred interview, we’re unlikely to find out.