In March 1995, Michael Jordan released one of the most succinct yet powerful statements the NBA had ever seen. “I’m back,” the player widely considered to be the greatest in league history announced upon his return to the Chicago Bulls.
Over a quarter century later, Phillie Phanatic — arguably the MLB‘s greatest mascot — released an identical statement upon its return to the Philadelphia Phillies. The Phanatic will return to its original form going forward after a legal battle with its creators and subsequent aesthetic change, the team announced Tuesday.
“We welcome the original Phillie Phanatic back with open arms,” Phillies Executive Vice President David Buck said in a statement. “We are so proud of the 44-year history of the Phanatic and what the character means to the organization, to the City of Philadelphia and to Phillies fans everywhere.”
Tuesday’s announcement comes a month after the Phillies and Phillie Phanatic’s co-creators, Bonnie Erickson and Wayde Harrison, settled a lawsuit regarding the mascot’s usage.
In June 2018, Erickson and Harrison threatened to reclaim the Phanatic’s copyright, citing language in their original agreement from 1984, prompting the Phillies to sue the mascot’s creators a year later. The team then changed Phillie Phanatics’s look ahead of the 2020 season, a move Erickson described as an “affront to our intellectual property rights and to Phillies fans everywhere.”
The justice system, however, didn’t agree with Erickson. In August, United States Magistrate Judge Sarah Netburn wrote the new Phanatic is a “completely different mascot” than its predecessor, allowing the Phillies to continue trotting it out while battling Erickson and Harrison in court.
Netburin’s decision all but shattered Erickson and Harrison’s legal hopes, but it paved the way for a beloved mascot’s return to the City of Brotherly Love.