It shocked the world. On the 6th of October, 1993, the world’s most famous professional athlete announced his retirement. But people close to Michael Jordan were not completely surprised. Because for more than a year, he’d been talking about it.

A few months prior, in June, Jordan’s Chicago Bulls had wrapped up their third straight NBA championship. Just over a month later, Jordan’s father James went missing—he had been murdered by two strangers, who stole his Lexus with the UNC0023 license plate. On August 3, a badly decomposed body was found in a swampy South Carolina creek; two days later, the Lexus was found abandoned in Fayetteville, North Carolina. The connection was quickly made, and the Jordan family prepared for a funeral service.

In September, Jordan’s agent informed Bulls (and White Sox) owner Jerry Reinsdorf that Jordan would probably retire. According to Jordan biographer Roland Lazenby, the wavering superstar asked coach Phil Jackson “how the coach would get him through another 82-game regular season, because he had absolutely no motivation, saw no challenge in it. Jackson had no good answer.”

So, in a televised press conference, Jordan announced his retirement from the NBA, saying he’d lost his “sense of motivation, the sense to prove something as a basketball player.”

Reinsdorf said of Jordan, “He’s living the American Dream. The American Dream is to reach a point in your life where you don’t have to do anything you don’t wanna do, and everything that you do wanna do.”

But what did Jordan want to do? He wasn’t saying, yet. But he’d already told Reinsdorf, “I want to play baseball”—James Jordan’s long-held dream for his son.

Sure, Michael had been an outstanding baseball player—as a kid. At 12, he’d been named North Carolina’s “Mr. Baseball” by the Dixie Youth Association. He played Babe Ruth ball, and in high school. But he’d quit baseball two games into his senior season, when he was 18. Now he was 31.

A few other superstar professional athletes had quit while still at the top of their games—most famously, the NFL’s Jim Brown—but none had quit to pursue a career in another professional sport. But that winter in Chicago, Jordan worked out for several weeks with White Sox trainer Herm Schneider and various White Sox players. On February 7, he signed with the White Sox and held another press conference. “This is something that has been in the back of my mind for a long time,” Jordan said, “and something that my father and I talked about often.”

What happened over the next year-plus, on baseball diamonds and in pickup basketball games and during long bus rides, will never be forgotten by the players and coaches and broadcasters and front-office workers who were there, just hanging on for the wild ride that would be Michael Jordan’s baseball career, so brief but no less spectacular, in its way, than his basketball career.