On Valentine's Day, 1990, Michael Jordan attempted the second-most field goal attempts in a regular season game in his career (43), scoring 49 points in 47 minutes in Orlando against the Magic.
And he did it not in his famed No. 23 jersey, but wearing the No. 12.
Why? This is a story that has long been shrouded in mystery. An investigation by Chris Johnson of Sports Illustrated on the game's 25-year anniversary found the most plausible outcome to be that the jersey was snatched from the visitors locker room at Amway Arena some time between morning shootaround and when the Bulls arrived pre-game. There was an arena-wide search for the jersey before tip — including an announcement from the PA system — and the soliciting of fans for a red Jordan Bulls jersey that might fit him, according to Johnson. Nothing was found, and Jordan eventually had to play the game in a nameless, No. 12 threads. Further details are murky.
But the Magic might have just blown the roof off this story (no pun intended):
"That morning, after their shootaround, their locker room was set up — every player's jerseys, shorts, warmups, everything, laid out," Rodney "Sid" Powell, the Magic's Director of Team Operations, said in the video. "The locker room door was dead-bolted, locked, and then we had separate lock that we put on the door with a hasp. So there was only one person with a key to it."
Sounds airtight enough. But when the Bulls arrived for the game at 4:30 p.m., Jordan's No. 23 jersey had vanished.
All of the above, we already knew or could have inferred. But Powell went on to peel another layer back.
"A couple days later, they found out from security that one of their personnel had set up a plan to get the jersey, had actually gone through another locker room, climbed over the ceilings, came through a ceiling tile, grabbed the jersey, put it back in the ceiling," Powell continued. "Planning for, I guess, a few days later to come back and get it after thinking no one would figure it out."
High-level stuff. Although, it doesn't appear the unnamed Magic employee got to keep his piece of stolen memorabilia.
The jersey swap didn't seem to impact Jordan individually too much, but the Magic would go on to get the last laugh that day, winning the game 135-129.
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