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Despite NBA Owners’ Willingness to Get Michael Jordan Back to Basketball, Bulls Legend Once Laid Down Outrageous $300 Million Demand

Jay Mahesh Lokegaonkar
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Despite NBA Owners' Willingness to Get Michael Jordan Back to Basketball, Bulls Legend Once Laid Down Outrageous $300 Million Demand

Michael Jordan‘s first retirement from the NBA was a shock to the league’s system. After losing Magic Johnson and Larry Bird to retirement in 1991 and 1992, respectively, the league had identified Jordan as its face and expected him to carry the mantle. However, with his exit, things got so bad, that many worked behind the scenes to plant a little idea on Chicago Bulls owner, Jerry Reinsdorf’s head.

Per writer, Ronald Lazenby, NBA team owners planted the seed in the Bulls’s owner’s mind that perhaps the NBA itself should come up with the contact of a lifetime to lure the greatest player of all time back. In his book titled ‘Michael Jordan: The Life,’ Lazenby wrote,

“Even on this night of retirement celebration, Phil Jackson sensed that the desire to play again was stirring within Jordan. Some NBA owners had mentioned quietly to Reinsdorf that maybe the league itself should offer him a major compensation package to lure him back to basketball.”

The NBA could’ve cut the Bulls icon a massive cheque if they wanted. Before the 1993 playoffs commenced, the league had signed a four-year, $750 million deal with NBC Sports, a $150 million increase from their previous agreement. The Dream Team’s triumph at the 1992 Olympics and Jordan and the Bulls’ dominance helped the NBA’s popularity skyrocket as the TV deal showcased.

With the league finally making a dent in MLB and NFL’s dominance on TV, they would’ve done anything to avoid losing their marquee star. But his number to continue playing was too steep.

Per Lazenby, an interviewer asked Jordan if he would have reversed his decision to retire had the league or the Bulls offered him $100 million. He responded, “If I played for the money, it would’ve been $300 million.”

It’s unclear whether Jordan was serious or just blurted a number massive enough to avoid being asked that question. Either way, no offer was made to the Bulls icon and he stayed away from the NBA until 1995.

How much money was Michael Jordan making after returning to the NBA?

Mandatory Credit: Photo By USA TODAY Sports (c) Copyright 1991 USA TODAY Sports

It did not take money or any other incentive to lure Jordan back to basketball. His love for the game and the MLB’s lockout prompted Jordan to return to the NBA in March 1995 after a 16-month hiatus.

While he was trying his hand at baseball and playing for the Birmingham Barons, the Chicago White Sox’s Double-A minor league team, Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf, who owned the MLB team as well, continued paying him his NBA salary. Jordan had signed an eight-year, $25.7 million deal with the Bulls in 1988 and was set to earn $3.85 million in the final two years of the agreement.

Fortunately, by the last year of the contract, he was back to being the best player in the NBA, winning the MVP and leading the Bulls to their fourth NBA title in six seasons. But he was only the 32nd highest-paid player in the league [Sportac] before it was quickly resolved in the 1996 offseason.

Over the next two years, Jordan signed two one-year extensions that paid him $63 million in total, easily the most for any player at the time. He was compensated better than any star in the NBA because he was a better player than any star in the NBA.

Post Edited By:Tonoy Sengupta

About the author

Jay Mahesh Lokegaonkar

Jay Mahesh Lokegaonkar

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Jay Lokegaonkar is a basketball journalist who has been following the sports as a fan 2005. He has worked in a slew of roles covering the NBA, including writer, editor, content manager, social media manager, and head of content since 2018. However, his primary passion is writing about the NBA. Especially throwback stories about the league's iconic players and franchises. Revisiting incredible tales and bringing scarcely believable stories to readers are one his main interests as a writer.

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