NBA legend Michael Jordan was about to sign with the New York Knicks, but the presence of Phil Jackson overpowered his potential move.
It would not be wrong to say that Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls are synonymous with one and another. Both the parties had most of their success as one unit. The Bulls have won 6 championships as a franchise, with MJ being Finals MVP in each of them.
However, there was a possibility for the team and Jordan to part ways in 1996. The Bulls superstar was coming off his fourth NBA title and was an unrestricted free agent for the first time in his career.
New York was one of the most attractive destinations on MJ’s mind, owing to his iconic performances at the basketball mecca. The Knicks also had a superstar in Patrick Ewing, an NCAA champion and 11x All-Star. At the time, MJ was looking to make a bank.
Though his Airness was quite keen on signing with the Knicks, the presence of Phil Jackson made MJ stay at the United Center.
Phil Jackson had a significant contribution to Michael Jordan’s legacy
Jordan had confirmed to Spike Lee in the memoir Best Seat In the House about a potential signing with the Knicks. However, MJ couldn’t leave Jackson’s side for Jeff Van Gundy.
New York was right downstairs, Jordan told Lee. The Bulls, all they had to do was mess up. My coach is everything. Don’t know what kind of coach Van Gundy is. I know Phil.
His Airness re-signed with the Bulls on a 1-year, $30.1M deal in July 1996. The Bulls would go on to win two more championships completing a 3-peat for the second time. Jordan owed a lot of his success to coach Phil Jackson.
MJ had never won an NBA title before Jackson arrived. Bulls former coach Doug Collins never had a team vision in mind and would attribute all his time and knowledge, developing MJ as a talent.
However, this changed with the arrival of Phil Jackson, who developed the triangle offense and would instruct Jordan to make others play along with him. Jackson played a crucial role in developing Scottie Pippen as the perfect supporting cast to Jordan.
During Jackson’s reign in Chicago, Jordan won 6 championships and Finals MVPs, followed by seven scoring titles and four league MVPs.
Jerry Krause had made it public that Jackson would no longer be the coach for the team post the 1997-98 season. Krause’s decision didn’t go down too well with MJ as he refused to play under any other coach.
Following the 1997-98 season, both Jackson and Jordan retired. Jackson would, however, stage a comeback to motivate the LA Lakers to the only threepeat of the 21st century and their franchise history.