ESPN recently did a deep-dive about how Michael Jordan re-signed with Chicago in 1996. It revealed some stunning details about the Knicks’ bid.
Michael Jordan might be a billionaire today, but this has little to do with the money he earned as his salary. MJ won his 4th championship in 1995-96 while still finishing out his 8-year, $26 million deal from 1987-88.
In fact, his playing salary of around $4 million wasn’t even 10% of his 1995-96 earnings worth $44 million. This meant that he was slated for a huge payday through his next contract.
Michael was the one player who could demand practically any feasible amount as salary for his services, and it still wouldn’t make up for his role in making the NBA a truly global brand.
MJ’s agent David Falk was also the representative for a number of other elite free agents. Allan Houston, Shaquille O’Neal, Alonzo Mourning, Juwan Howard, Gary Payton, and Dikembe Mutombo were some of the other players on the market.
The Knicks eventually landed Houston and re-signed Patrick Ewing, but they also pursued MJ. Unfortunately for them, they had to conceive of a plan that illegally circumvented CBA rules. David Falk and other NBA representatives discussed this with ESPN’s Anthony Olivieri.
Knicks wanted to make Michael Jordan the face of Sheraton Hotels
The Knicks technically only had around $9 million in cap room to sign MJ. But this discussion reveals that ITT, the parent group both for the New York Knicks and Sheraton Hotels, had chalked up a rather nifty but questionable way of making sure MJ got paid. Checketts says:
“I only gave him a day to think about [the offer of all the money under the Knicks’ salary cap]. And [Falk] came back and said he can’t make a decision that fast.”
“And there was part of me that wanted to wait. But I felt it would be a disaster if we waited, and then Michael wouldn’t leave Chicago, and we would have missed out on really good players.”
Falk himself denies allegations of chalking up any concrete plan. But he was clearly willing to listen to alternative plans and options – innovative circumventions that would have allowed ITT to bring MJ to New York.
After all, Michael Jordan was born in Brooklyn. And he always gave his best at both Madison Square Garden and the Izod Center.