“Michael Jordan Would Have Given Up the Bulls for Knicks”: Jerry Reinsdorf Threatened to Sue MJ for ‘Multi-Million’ Deal

Adit Pujari
|Published November 28, 2022

Michael Jordan is unquestionably the greatest Chicago Bulls player ever. He is the reason for Chicago Bulls’ global fame, without him they would hardly have become what they are today. Yet, when active, MJ was criminally underpaid for a player of his stature. In fact, following the 95-96 season, there was a probability Michael would leave Chicago because of poor pay. He was in talks with the New York Knicks but Jerry Reinsdorf wasn’t impressed with it.

In 1996-96, the Bulls went through the second-greatest regular season run ever seen. They registered 72 wins and 10 losses in a season, second only to the Warriors 73-09 in 20115-16. After winning Chicago their 4th championship, Michael’s contract with the Bulls ended.

In an attempt to take advantage of Michael Jordan’s expiring contract, New York Knicks got involved. But Jerry Reinsdorf, the Bulls owner, got furious at the idea of losing MJ.

Also read: Michael Jordan, Who Left a $4 Million Salary With the Bulls to Play for White Sox, Wanted NBA to Replicate MLB’s Structure

Michael Jordan almost signed with the Knicks

In his book Michael Jordan: The Life, Roland Lazenby revealed how after 96, MJ expected Jerry to offer him a big fat check. However, at the same time, Jordan knew Jerry had no intention to part with his money that easily.

Roland Lazenby: “Jordan, however, was also well aware of Reinsdorf’s reluctance to let go of money. The star believed a drawn-out negotiation would only demean what he had accomplished for the Bulls. So Jordan and his advisors entertained offers from the New York Knickerbockers. Would Jordan have given up the Bulls for the Knicks? “Yes,” he said. In fact, the Knicks had put together a few million in base salary for Jordan to be augmented by a megamillion personal services contract with one of the Knicks’ affiliated companies.”

Jerry Reinsdorf became so furious after hearing about this that he threatened legal action. He consulted with the NBA leadership on the legality of the Knicks’ offer. He was even ready to sue both Jordan and the Knicks for it.

Lazenby: “The Bulls chairman supposedly threatened a lawsuit to block the Knicks, but a highly placed person at the NBA counseled Reinsdorf about the futility and possible backlash of filing suit against his popular star and the Knicks.”

Jordan made $66 million in his last two seasons

After it was clear to Jerry that Jordan wasn’t ready to take less money than was requested, he relented. The Bulls agreed to pay Michael Jordan $30 million in 1996-97. MJ then received a payment of $33 million in 97-98.

Until then, he had basically made just 28 million in his previous 14 seasons with the Bulls. If not for the paychecks in his last two seasons, MJ’s total career earnings would have just stood at 30 million. In all honesty, Jerry was fortunate Michael was loyal and well-paid by Nike, otherwise, he would have lost the superstar far before 1998.

Also read: Stephen Curry, Who Has Been Penalized $75,000 Because of His Mouthguard, Was Once Fined for Flopping

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About the author

Adit Pujari

Adit Pujari

Adit Pujari is an NBA Content Manager at The SportsRush. He formerly worked as a debate and writing trainer. An avid fan of Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers, Adit began following the sport in 2007. With the Lakers and Boston Celtics rivalry ripe, Adit found himself hooked on the sport immediately. Having followed NBA for 15 years, he decided to use his knowledge base as a sports writer in 2021. Since then, he has worked as an NBA writer, led a team of MLB writers, and has now joined The SportsRush. In his spare time, Adit loves playing basketball and climbing Himalayan peaks and passes. He has also authored a poetry book.

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