On March 18th, 1995, Michael Jordan sent the above fax in response to questions about his future career plans…it simply said, “I’m back.”
Jordan, who retired from the NBA in October of 1993, was playing minor league baseball for the Birmingham Barons in March of 1995 when he decided to quit baseball (somewhat due to the ongoing Major League Baseball strike) and make his return to the NBA. In MJ’s first game back (wearing number 45) he scored 19 points as the Bulls lost to the Indiana Pacers 103-96 (I can still remember racing home from the WIAA State Basketball Tournament to watch that game).
Jordan would lead Chicago to a 13-4 record over the final 17 games (highlighted by a game-winning shot against the Atlanta Hawks in just his fourth game back and a 55 point effort in the very next game against the New York Knicks in Madison Square Garden) and helped the Bulls advance to the Eastern Conference Finals against the Orlando Magic.
Did you know…at the end of Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals, Orlando’s Nick Anderson stripped Jordan from behind, leading to the game-winning basket for the Magic. Anderson would later comment that Jordan “didn’t look like the old Michael Jordan” and that “No. 45 doesn’t explode like No. 23 used to.” Jordan then returned to wearing his old number in Game 2, and scored 38 points in a Bulls win. The Bulls were fined $30,000 for the game…$25,000 for failing to report the impromptu number change to the NBA and $5,000 for Jordan wearing different shoes.
Orlando would go on to win that series in six games, despite MJ averaging 31 points per game. Losing that series only motivated Jordan and the Bulls, as Chicago would win the next three NBA Championships (their second three-peat of the decade). Jordan would retire again on January 13th, 1999…only to return on September 25, 2001 as a member of the Washington Wizards. Jordan’s final NBA game would come on April 16th, 2003 in Philadelphia.
On July 11th, 2014, LeBron James announced, via an essay he co-wrote with Lee Jenkins of Sports Illustrated, that he was modifying his own career plans…the essay was titled, “I’m coming home.”
James, who was a free agent in the summer of 2010, announced on a live ESPN special (The Decision) that he was taking his talents to South Beach and would become a member of the Miami Heat (I remember watching that “special” at Leff’s Lucky Town). LeBron joined fellow free agents Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade in Miami and they would become known as the “Big Three.”
In his first season with Miami, James led the Heat to the NBA Finals, only to lose to the Dallas Mavericks in six games. The following season, James led Miami to their second-ever championship and his first championship when they beat the Oklahoma City Thunder in five games. LeBron and the Heat would go on to win their second straight NBA title when they defeated the San Antonio Spurs in seven games the next year. In his final season in Miami, James led the Heat to the Finals again, only to lose the Spurs in five games. That would be LeBron’s last game in Miami, as he opted out of his contract with the Heat and announced his return to Cleveland.
In LeBron’s first season back with Cleveland, he led the Cavaliers to the NBA Finals (his fifth straight Finals appearance) where Cleveland lost to the Golden State Warriors in six games. James averaged 35.8 points, 13.3 rebounds, and 8.8 assists per game for the series, as Cleveland played without starters Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving. Just months ago, down three games to one in the Finals to that same Warriors team, LeBron helped mount an epic comeback and lead Cleveland (Believeland) to the city’s first professional sports title in 52 years, as James became the first player in league history to lead both teams in all five statistical categories for a playoff round, as James was named the unanimous Finals MVP.
So with ALL that being said…on this day, August 1st, 2016, Clara and I would like to announce that WE will be coming back home. I know, not as exciting as the Jordan and James announcements of their return to their respective cities/teams, but exciting news for our friends and family back in Wisconsin (we hope). We also can’t guarantee any championships upon our return…but there is always hope (Go Pack Go)!
Last July, we moved out to California, and while our stay here has been fun (and ending shorter than expected), it is time to make the change (again). In California, we were able to experience many new opportunities and explore many new places, all while enjoying a pretty successful stay in the process.
We will miss being that much closer to Theune…as a 4+ hour car ride (as long as there is no traffic) definitely beats a 4+ hour flight (and all the airport fun that goes along with that). We enjoyed hanging out with Dave (we love L.A.) and having him come visit us this past year…and we will always have a spare bedroom waiting for him when he visits Wisconsin.
What we are going to miss the most about California will be our friends Grant and Megan, and their children, Tristan and Addie (they’ve grown so much over the past year)…and not to be forgotten, their dog Gilly (the best dog around). While it would have been nice to move to Napa and be even closer to them, that just wasn’t in the cards (and no, I’m not talking about Hand and Foot). I know that we won’t be able to hang out as much in the coming year(s), but the friendship that we forged over the past year, will only make the times that we do get together in the future, all the more special. Besides, December will be here before you know it (flight booked)!
Leaving California friends behind will be tough, but we definitely won’t miss all the traffic (more on that here) and the ridiculous cost of living in the Bay Area…especially in terms of housing (as the median home price in Livermore is only $700,000). Just look at all these new homes going up in Livermore…and they’re going up everywhere! We thought traffic was bad now…just wait! I’m glad we won’t have to experience that.
So, as we pack things up over the next two weeks, we look forward to our return to Wisconsin (I hope this is our last move ever). It will be nice to be close to family and friends once again. I’m already looking forward to hanging with friends at the Wisconsin vs LSU game at Lambeau Field on September 3rd. Go Badgers!
As for our Wisconsin plans, Clara and I are closing in on a home in Whitefish Bay (thank you Closing Time)…we will refer to it as the house that Gallo bought or the San Lorenzo House (and yes, the Rau’s are only 1.1 miles away and Draft & Vessel is only 0.9 miles away). As for our jobs, I accepted a teaching position at John Long Middle School in the Grafton School District (thanks Deering) and Clara will go back to working for herself and doing a lot of consulting work for different wineries (Gallo included). So in a year, it has pretty much come full circle for the two of us, and to quote LeBron James, we are ready to accept the challenge.
On August 12th or 13th…we will be coming home. With an ETA of…August 15th or 16th.
See you soon Wisconsin!