The equipment managers were literally the “nannies” of the team, and their relationship with the players was so close that the two sides created a lot of interesting tidbits together.
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After Jordan’s first comeback in 1995, since the Bulls had retired his No. 23 jersey, Jordan picked the No. 45 jersey to don. That season the Bulls reached the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Orlando Magic. In the first game between the two sides, Jordan was in bad shape, and Nick Anderson, the Magic player who was defending him, said after the game, “No. 45 NBA jersey Jordan is not as good as No. 23 Jordan, and there’s no way I could have gotten a steal from No. 23 Jordan.”
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The NBA has a rule that retired jerseys can’t be worn back on the court, and with sponsors having produced thousands of No. 45 Jordan jerseys, Jordan couldn’t have switched back to No. 23. But Bulls equipment manager Rigomanowski became a key player — he still had Jordan’s old No. 23 jersey. Without informing his sponsors, Rigomanowski had the audacity to suggest that Jordan switch back to No. 23. The Bulls lost to the Magic, who had O’Neal and “Penny” Hardaway that year, but in the following three seasons, Jordan led the Bulls to their second three-peat.
In addition to the Bulls’ Ragmanovsky, a wise manager who offers advice to the stars, there are team managers who even have the shooting skills of the team’s star.
Former Celtics star and 2010 All-Star three-point king Paul Pierce once revealed that he repeatedly lost to Celtics equipment manager John Connor in the team’s shooting drills.