Michael Jordan made it clear at the end of The Last Dance that his preference was not to retire prior to the 1999 season. Instead, Jordan wanted to go for his seventh NBA title with the Bulls, but owner Jerry Reinsdorf along with general manager Jerry Krause had different plans. Jordan ended up retiring for the second time, but The Ringer’s Bill Simmons suggested on his recent podcast that the Knicks made a lot of sense as a potential landing spot in the event he continued playing.
“If it doesn’t play out where the lockout ends and it’s just complete chaos for a week,” Simmons noted on The Bill Simmons Podcast. “If Jordan had had time to actually pick his next team, when I did the piece two years ago, I thought the Knicks were really the only logical place that made sense because [its a] big city [and] MSG was his favorite place to play.”
The Knicks Traded for Latrell Sprewell After Michael Jordan Retired
Jordan abruptly retired on January 13, 1999 prior to the lockout-shortened NBA season. The Bulls star was a few months removed from winning his third straight title and sixth championship ring. New York traded for guard Latrell Sprewell a little more than a week later and would make the NBA finals.
“If you’re gonna leave Chicago, it’s either New York or L.A.,” Simmons continued. “He wasn’t going to play in L.A. with Shaq and young Kobe, that would have been ridiculous. New York ends up trading for Latrell Sprewell, I think, eight days after Jordan retires, or before he retires, I can’t remember, but it was right around that same time where they had a bunch of contracts they could kind of piece together and they went and got Latrell’s bigger contract. So, they could have done the sign-and-trade with the Bulls, maybe given them some picks [for Jordan]. But that’s the only place he could have gone is the Knicks and the Knicks ended up making the finals that year.”
Jordan Threatened to Sign With the Knicks in 1996
If Jordan was considering the Knicks prior to his retirement, it was not the first time. The Chicago Tribune’s Sam Smith reported in 1997 that Jordan’s agent David Falk called Reinsdorf during the previous offseason to give him a short window to top the Knicks’ $25 million offer.
“The Bulls had one hour, maybe the rest of the day, to beat a $25 million offer from the Knicks, or Michael Jordan was going to sign with New York,” Smith explained.
Smith went on to note that it could have been a leveraging ploy by Jordan to command more money from the Bulls. He called a move to the Knicks unlikely but the team did make some sense as an alternative landing spot.
Jordan always loved playing against the Knicks at Madison Square Garden. The legendary guard was born in Brooklyn before his family moved to North Carolina where he spent the majority of his childhood. Jordan also had a close relationship with Knicks’ big man Patrick Ewing.
Fast forward to two years later and the Knicks once again made sense. Who knows how closely Jordan considered the Knicks or any other team before once again calling it quits during a unique offseason. Instead, Jordan opted to retire, but we now know that he had a strong desire to attempt to win his seventh NBA championship.