When it comes time for most up and coming athletes to choose their jersey number they will choose a number with some meaning. Perhaps part of their birthdate, the birthdate of a loved one, their personal best at an aspect of their sport or the number of an admired sports star.
Michael Jordan was no different. The man who’s number is possibly the most imitated in world-wide sport (to the point where at least one non Chicago Bulls team has retired the number 23) actually chose his jersey number based on that of another athlete.
The person we have to thank for contributing to immortalising the jersey number 23 is Larry Jordan – Michael Jordan’s older brother. Larry wore the number 45 throughout his athletic career.
Although he never played in the NBA, Larry Jordan was always a gifted athlete and basketball player. He taught his younger brother a lot about the sport of basketball and helped instil an ingrained competitiveness in Michael. It wasn’t until late in high school that Michael started to really compete with Larry’s ability.
Michael looked up to his brother and has been known to wish he could be half the man Larry is. David Hart, a North Carolina team manager said of Michael and Larry’s relationship.
“Michael really loved Larry and talked about him all the time – really revered him. But if Michael had gone far beyond Larry as an athlete, he never let it affect his feeling for his brother – his emotional connection and his respect for his brother were very strong. When his brother was around, he dropped all his mounting fame and his accomplishments and became nothing more than a loving, adoring younger brother.”
So when it came time for Michael Jordan to choose his jersey number the choice was a simple one. If he was ever to be half the man his idol Larry was then his jersey should reflect that – half of 45 is 22.5, round it up and you have 23.
After the death of his father Michael initially no longer wanted to use the number 23 as it was the number his father watched him play in. So he chose 45 for his baseball career and initial return to the NBA.