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Closees responsible for the basketball section at ESPNdeportes.com. He has been working for ESPN since 2003. He covered, among other tournaments, the 2013 NBA Finals, the 2011 FIBA Americas Pre-Olympic, the 2009 NBA All-Star, the 2009-10 Americas League, 2011-12, Argentina’s preparations for the 2004, 2008, and 2008 Olympics. 2012, and for the 2006 and 2010 World Cups. He is also a regular columnist for NBA and FIBA topics. You can follow him on Twitter.RELATED
After winning his third consecutive title with the Chicago Bulls, Michael Jordan put the brakes on his career and caused a worldwide shock by announcing his first retirement. After beating the Phoenix Suns 4-1 in the NBA Finals, Her Majesty was literally exhausted. To his physical and mental exhaustion, perhaps the worst news of his life was added: the death of James Jordan, his father, confidant and friend.
Michael Jordan played minor leagues with the Birmingham Barons after his retirement from basketball in 1993 Getty Images
Jordan, worn out and burdened by such a tragedy, also had to deal with recurring accusations from the press for his gambling conflicts. So he needed a breather, and so he raised it with Phil Jackson and the entire Bulls management. There was no other choice but to accept his departure.
His decision to bow to baseball had two reasons: the first was to enjoy being one of a team, something that had happened in the first years of his life. The second is to honor the memory of his father by fulfilling a wish of yesteryear.
At 31 years old, the White Sox signed a minor contract to Jordan in February 1994. Jerry Reinsdorf, owner of the Chicago Bulls, also owned the White Sox, for which, as he recalls in The Last Dance, he honored the contract his star had with the Bulls during his time in the baseball world. After enlisting in spring training, MJ was officially assigned to the minor leagues in late March to play for the Birmingham Barons of the Southern League (AA), where he remained for the remainder of the season. He never played in MLB.
Now, what NBA talents managed to fulfill Jordan’s frustrated dream of playing professional basketball and baseball?
The full list is below, courtesy of the Elias Sports Bureau.
Danny Ainge: Without a doubt the most important member of this club and several times staunch rival of Jordan in his NBA career. Ainge hit for a low-key .220, with 2 homers and 37 RBIs in three seasons (1979-81) with the Blue Jays before embarking on a 14-year NBA career, with the Celtics, Kings, Trail Blazers and the Suns. He went 0-2 with a strikeout as a starting third baseman on May 15, 1981, when Len Barker pitched a perfect game against the Blue Jays.
Dave DeBusschere: DeBusschere was 3-4 with a respectable 2.90 RBI in two seasons (1962-63), right with the White Sox. Anyway, the place that saw him really shine was the parquet: in the NBA he won two titles and joined eight All-Star teams in 12 years. He is the only player on this list to make up the Hall of Fame.
Dick Groat: Groat was twice an All-American in basketball while at Duke University in the early 1950s. After finishing third in the Rookie of the Year election with the Pirates in 1952, Groat played the 52-53 season with the Pistons before reporting to military service in Korea. On his return, he focused only on baseball and was an eight-time All-Star, winning the 1960 MVP with the Pirates, in addition to the World Series the same year.
Mark Hendrickson: The most recent addition to this list. Hendrickson played four seasons (1996-97 to 1999-2000) in the NBA, coming from Washington State. He became a left-handed pitcher and had a 10-year career. At 2.06 meters tall, he is one of the tallest players in MLB history.
Frank Baumholtz: Baumholtz played in the old NBAm after participating in the BAA matchup in the 1946-47 season with the Cleveland Rebels. He played ten seasons as an outfielder with the Cubs, Phillies and Reds, finishing fifth with Jackie Robinson on the first Rookie of the Year vote in 1947.
Ron Reed: Reed was part of the Pistons’ rotation in two seasons (1965-66 and 1966-67) averaging eight points per appearance in 119 games. While playing basketball, he started his MLB career in parallel. After playing two games in 1966 and three in 1967, he left basketball to be part of the Braves’ frequent starting lineup. He joined the All-Star team in 1968, his first season as a baseball player. Reed went on to pitch at the age of 40, concluding with a record of 146-140 in 19 major league seasons (1966-84).
Dick Ricketts: Ricketts was chosen by the Hawks in the 1955 NBA Draft and was part of the NBA rotation for four seasons, leading the competition in games played in both 1956-57 and 1957-58. During this time, he grew as a minor league pitcher within the Cardinals system. He made his MLB debut in 1959, but went 1-6 with a 5.82 earned RBI in his only major league season. He pitched in the minor leagues in 1964, but did not return to play in the NBA after his MLB debut.
Danny Ainge, Jordan’s staunch rival and a personality in the NBA world, played two seasons with the Blue Jays in the MLB Getty Images
Gene Conley: Conley is a strange case, as it generated the reverse transition, from baseball to basketball, three times. He had his MLB debut with the Braves in 1952 and then played the 1952-53 season with the Celtics. He returned as a baseball professional in 1954, playing the next five seasons, consistently, with the Braves. In 1958, he resumed his double duty, rejoining the Celtics and added this work to his busy schedule as a pitcher. The Red Sox signed him on an exchange in 1960 and he played with the Celtics and Red Sox throughout the 1961 calendar year. He then did not participate in the 1961-62 NBA season, but rejoined professional basketball to defend the Knicks’ colors. in 1962-63. Conley played his last MLB game with Boston in 1963 and his last NBA game with New York in 1964.
Cotton Nash: Like Conley, Nash alternated between basketball and baseball. After playing the 1964-65 season with the Lakers and Warriors, he abandoned basketball for two seasons and immersed himself in the big leagues for three games with the White Sox in 1967. That same fall he played for the Kentucky Colonels in the inaugural season of the ABA. Nash returned to baseball for two more seasons, winning cups of coffee with the Twins in 1969 and 1970.
Steve Hamilton: He was pick 8 of the 1958 NBA Draft and played two seasons with the Lakers. He had immense success in MLB, having participated in 12 seasons (1961-72) as a left-handed reliever with six different franchises.
Chuck Connors: Connors was also a member of the inaugural BAA and played for the Celtics in the first two years of existence. He played a game for the Dodgers in 1949 and 66 as the Cubs’ first baseman in 1951.
Howie Schultz: Schultz played between the 1943 and 1948 seasons as first baseman for the Dodgers, Phillies and Reds. After that, he tried his luck in the NBA, averaging eight points per game in the 1949-50 season with the Anderson Packers and the Fort Wayne Pistons. He also played the rival league National Pro Basketball in 1950-51 before returning to the NBA for two more seasons with the Lakers, winning a title in 1951-52.
John Simmons: Simmons played all 60 games with the Celtics in 1946-47, in what was his first season as a franchise. He also played one season in the MLB, participating in all 62 games as a Washington Senators outfielder in 1949.
Hank Biasatti: Biasatti was a member of the Toronto Huskies in BAA’s inaugural season in 1946-47. He then played 21 games with the Philadelphia Athletics in 1949.
Don Grate: Grate made seven pitcher appearances with the Phillies in 1945 and 1946. He later played two games with the Sheboygan Red Skins in 1949-59, the only season with the franchise in 1949-50.