Jordan had won three straight NBA titles with the Chicago Bulls, three straight NBA Finals MVP awards and seven straight NBA scoring titles.
It is not the first such retirement: Rocky Marciano retired at the age of 32 as undefeated heavyweight boxing champ with a 49-0 record. Sandy Koufax retired at 30 after compiling a 27-6 season in 1966 with the Dodgers. Bjorn Borg quit at 25 with 11 major titles. Jim Brown’s retirement, considering he had just led the NFL in rushing and TDs at the age of 29, surprised the football world. And just two years earlier, Magic Johnson had stunned the basketball fans everywhere when retired after contracting HIV.
As the world watches in disbelief, Jordan calmly explains his reasoning, without any sadness in his voice, without any tears. He actually smiles. He actually proves his decision is one of relief, despite retiring at the height of his power.
“I’ve reached the pinnacle,” he tells the world. “I always said to the people that have known me that when I lose that sense of motivation and that sense that I can prove something, it’s time for me to leave.”
He pauses. He looks out at the crowd of reporters. He looks down. “It was just a matter of waiting until this time, when basketball was near, to see if my heart ticked for it,” he says. “I went through all the different stages of getting myself prepared for the next year, but the desire…was not there.”