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The two times Michael Jordan played pretty good April Fools’ jokes

Remembering Michael Jordan’s forgotten April Fools’ jokes.

As Michael Jordan was reaching the height of his powers, the Chicago Bulls star said he was retiring to pick up a new sport. Sound familiar?

Before Jordan actually did retire to play baseball following his third NBA championship in 1993, he played a part in an April Fools’ joke with radio host Pat Benkowski of WKQX-FM that shocked Chicago-area listeners back in 1987.

Jordan was putting the finishing touches on the highest scoring season of his career in his third season, when he averaged a league-leading 37.1 points per game. Jordan was the NBA’s biggest emerging star, but he was years away from being considered the GOAT. The early portion of Jordan’s career was filled with obstacles. He had missed most of the previous season with a foot injury. He had been brilliant in his return the following year, but the Bulls still weren’t experiencing much team success. Chicago was on its way to a 40-42 season and a first round sweep against the Boston Celtics.

But before that happened, Jordan called into Benkowski’s radio show and said he was going to retire to try to start a career in golf. Here’s an old newspaper clip documenting the joke (via In All Airness):

“Right now, with the injuries I have, I feel mentally and physically strained,” Jordan said. “My body is tired, and I’m just ready to quit playing basketball.”

Jordan continued: “This is my third year in the NBA, and I feel I have enough financial security that I can leave. I’m ready to start my golf game.”

Benkowski had approached Jordan with the idea for the joke a few days earlier. The radio station would be flooded with calls from confused Bulls fans, while Jordan “had his phone ringing all day with anxious friends and business associates.” The good news for Jordan was that help was on the way: that offseason, the Bulls swung a draft-day trade for Scottie Pippen, used the No. 10 overall pick on Horace Grant, and the rest is history.

This was not the only April Fools’ joke Jordan played a part in. Back when he was at Laney High School in 1981, Jordan played a prank with the student newspaper that said he had failed four classes and would be unable to graduate or move on to college at North Carolina. Here’s the newspaper clip, again from In All Airness:

“It’s not that I have to stay here another year that’s upsetting, but Dean Smith wanted me this fall,” Jordan said. “Now I have to spend a whole year not playing basketball at all, because I can’t play here as a senior for two years. I really didn’t think my teachers would fail me, I thought I had it made.”

Look at the kicker of this story, too: “In order to escape the humiliation, Jordan says he will attend the University of Nevada at Las Vegas, whenever he graduates.”

That surely wouldn’t have gone over well in Wilmington, North Carolina. But can you imagine how history might have changed with Jordan on the Runnin’ Rebels?

Jordan always liked a good gag, as anyone who remembers his old Johnny Kilroy commercial knows. Turns out Jordan is the GOAT of April Fools’ Day, too.