How the ‘Jordan Dome’ Helped Michael Jordan Find His Best Self

Michael Jordan retired from the NBA for the first time in 1993, but a fax with the words “I’m back” announced his return to the NBA on March 18, 1995, with just a few weeks left in the regular season. The Bulls went 13-4 in Jordan’s 17 games after his return, which helped them secure fifth place in the Eastern Conference.

Jordan was away from the league for 21 months and back then his conditioning wasn’t adequate, but the Bulls still eliminated the Hornets in four games in the first round, setting up a second round series against a young, talented Magic team led by Shaquille O’Neal, Anfernee Hardaway, and Horace Grant.

The Bulls were in control in Game 1 but Jordan made a costly turnover and a bad pass in the final seconds and the Magic beat them 94-91. Everything went downhill from there. Chicago eventually lost the series in six games.

“Number 23, he could just blow by you. He took off like a space shuttle. Number 45, he revs up, but he doesn’t really take off,” Nick Anderson said after Game 1 when he stole the ball from Jordan in a crucial play to help secure the win.

Jordan, who wore number 45 when he came back and in Game 1, changed his number back to 23 for the rest of the series but he just wasn’t himself.

After Game 6, Jordan’s trainer, Tim Grover told him, “Let me know when you want me to see you.” Jordan’s four-word response was, “I’ll see you tomorrow.”

 A Summer at the ‘Jordan Dome’

Jordan’s summer was tied up filming Space Jam, but he was willing to do whatever it took to become the best player in the NBA again.

MJ told Grover to help him get his body ready, and they asked Warner Bros. for a place to work out and practice. The Space Jam producers suggested putting hoops and painting lines on a parking lot near the movie set, but Grover asked for better facilities. Warner Bros. listened and built the ‘Jordan Dome.’

“When [the team] lost to Orlando – that’s where the whole process started,” Grover said. ”Initially, what they were going to do was just paint some lines on the parking lot and put a couple of hoops up and I was like, ‘No, no, no. This is Michael Jordan. We’re not playing basketball in a parking lot. Not gonna happen.’”

The ‘Jordan Dome,’ a state-of-the-art facility in the VIP parking lot had a full basketball court, locker rooms with showers, a weight room, big screen TVs, a card table, and a putting green. Jordan used the inflatable dome to the max.

Jordan filmed Space Jam from Monday to Saturday, from 7:00 am to 7:00 pm, with a two-hour break for mid-day exercises with Grover and then he would play pickup games with Reggie Miller, Magic Johnson, Dennis Rodman, Patrick Ewing, Horace Grant, Eddie Jones, Juwan Howard, Shawn Bradley, LaSalle Thompson, Jack Haley, and the UCLA team that won the NCAA Tournament in 1995, among others.


“They said, ‘Michael Jordan is in town shooting a movie, and he wants all of us to come to Warner Bros. Studios to play and train,’” Kris Johnson, one of the UCLA players, said.

“It looked like something you’d see in Area 51. When I walked in, there was this really bright light that hit me,” he recalled. Jordan was approachable, which surprised Johnson.

“Once you break the ice with Mike, you realize he’s just like you. He loves competition, he loves the game. He even gave me a pair of his patent leather Air Jordans. He gave me them off his feet. He really was uplifting to me, took me under his wing, gave me a lot of confidence not only in basketball but anything I did. And when you touch greatness, you always want to achieve that standard,” Johnson noted.

The ‘Jordan Dome’ Effect 

Reggie Miller, Jordan’s friend and rival, was impressed by what MJ went through that summer.

“What stood out the most to me was how Jordan could film all day and some evenings and still come out and play two to three hours of games. Most of our pickup games began around 7 pm and lasted until 10. His call time on set the next mornings would be around 5-6 am,” Miller said. 

Jordan’s hard work paid off, he gained eight pounds of muscle that summer and then led the Chicago Bulls to 72 wins in the 1995-96 regular season and an NBA Championship. Jordan also claimed the regular season, NBA All-Star game, and NBA Finals MVP awards, and Space Jam grossed over $250 million at the box office.

Eduardo Solano