THROWBACK: How Chicago Bulls Stopped Michael Jordan from Joining the Knicks in His Free Agency

Published 11/21/2020, 10:52 PM EST
Chicago Bulls # 23 Michael Jordan sitting next to Bill Cartwright on the bench during the Chicago Bulls vs New York Knicks game on May 14 , 1993 at Madison Square Garden. (Photo by Tom Berg/WireImage)


Michael Jordan was to the Chicago Bulls what Tom Brady was to the New England Patriots. Chicago’s on-court talisman spent 13 seasons with them out of his total 15 in the league.

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An optimist can argue that he could’ve played 19 seasons for the Bulls alone if there were no reasons for him to seek those early retirements.

However, the NBA fans from the mid-’90s are well aware that Jordan’s career with the Bulls would’ve been short-lived. It is true that he completed the three-peats twice in the ‘90s; however, at that point, his championship streak with the Chicago-based franchise could’ve been limited to four. 

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When the New York Knicks almost got hold of Michael Jordan

After shocking the world with his first retirement announcement in 1993 to join Minor League Baseball, the legend came back in 1995.

He pulled the Bulls back on-track and helped them win their 4th title in 1996. Notably, MJ was a free agent that off-season and was on the lookout for a ‘Balloon’ deal. 

Before him, his friend Patrick Ewing had already received one such deal from the Knicks. The center player had signed a whopping $18 million single-year deal with the Knicks.

 

However, the Knicks, who had already lost to the Bulls four times before the playoffs in 1996, lost yet again. By then, the Knicks franchise knew that their only chance to win rested in the hands of ‘His Airness’.

For Jordan, it was a win-win because both Ewing and Charles Oakley were extraordinary players and his friends in NY. With the likes of Allan Houston and Larry Johnson at his side, he knew he could win that title with the Knicks. 

The Chicago Bulls had an undeniable counter

The key to the Knicks’ confidence in signing MJ was Cablevision’s extended ownership and also the sponsorship deal with ITT-Sheraton group.

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Back then, Chicago Tribune writer Sam Smith had reported that the 1-year deal from the Knicks can get Jordan a record-breaking sum of $27 million ($15m coming from the sponsor deal). 

Interestingly, both David Falk and Bulls’ owner Jerry Reinsdorf then had an infamous meeting. There, the Bulls were given a day’s deadline to beat that crazy offer. 

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The Bulls, understanding the future value of MJ, did not hesitate to beat that offer. They put forth a record-setting $30 million on offer. This was 2.5x the last record and something unheard of. But eventually, the Bulls retained MJ, and the rest is history.

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Sourabh Singh

1263 articles

Sourabh Singh is an NBA sports analyst for EssentiallySports, who has been working with the site since May 2020. Prior to this, he functioned as Managing Editor at WittyFeed, followed by a stint at Decathlon. The Sports Management graduate leads an active lifestyle, veering to the mountains for off-trail adventures.

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