Michael Jordan Came Within One Hour From Signing With The Knicks In The Summer Of 1996


On October 6, 1993, Michael Jordan announced his retirement from basketball, due to a loss of desire to play the game, and the death of his father.

The sudden retirement of the world’s greatest player, while at his absolute prime at the young age of 30, sent a shockwave throughout the entire NBA world.

To surprise fans, media and officials even more, Jordan signed a Minor League Baseball contract with the Chicago White Sox to pursue the dream of his father, who had always envisioned his son as a baseball player.

In March 1995, Jordan decided to quit baseball and announced his return to the NBA through a now infamous two-word press release: “I’m back.”

A year later, and with the Bulls back being the Champions, Michael Jordan became a free agent. In that 1996 NBA offseason, Jordan was looking for a new-one year “ballon” payment deal similar to that of his friend and New York Knicks center Patrick Ewing.

Ewing was on a balloon payment deal worth $18 million in 1995/96, the largest single-season deal in the NBA at the time. In this summer, the Knicks were confident they also could snag Michael Jordan and reunite the two friends.

Per the Chicago Tribune:


That’s where Jordan started, and the Bulls were prepared to go to $20 million for one season as a sort of a one-year payback to Jordan for the previous seasons when he was “underpaid.”

But in stepped those dreaded Knicks, then owned by a partnership between ITT-Sheraton and Cablevision Inc.

The Knicks had maneuvered themselves well below the salary cap–about $12 million–and eventually signed free agents Allan Houston, Chris Childs and Buck Williams.

But the initial target was Jordan.

“We told them they could have all our cap room,” Madison Square Garden President Dave Checketts acknowledged.

But the talk was of a $25 million deal.


Jordan also was confident that he, Ewing and a Knicks’ core consisting Allan Houston, Larry Johnson and Charles Oakley, could win an NBA title.

But at the end of the day, it was about money, and Jordan’s agent David Falk was looking to get MJ as much as he could from the Knicks.

This led to David Falk and then Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf having their famous conversation in which Falk gave the Bulls ‘one hour, maybe the rest of the day’ to beat the Knicks’ $25 million offer.

As you all know, the Bulls came through and gave Jordan a one-year $30 million dollar contract, which was insane at the time – adjusted for inflation this would be around $50 million today.

If it was a bluff to get more money out of the Bulls, or if Jordan was actually ready to leave the Bulls for the Knicks, remains one of the biggest myths and questions in the NBA, one we likely won’t ever get answered.

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