The Bulls were 30 minutes away from losing Michael Jordan in 1996.

Michael Jordan almost signed with the New York Knicks in 1996, after his 8-year contract with the Chicago Bulls left him underpaid. Although MJ did not complain about his long-term deal, he said the Bulls had made a lot of money (presumably, he meant off him) and that it was time to give some back.

In 2005, Jordan sat down with Marvin Shanken, Editor and Publisher of Cigar Aficionado, and talked about the Knicks rumor.

“It was truly a rumor,” said Jordan. “We had one occasion when there was a dialogue. It must have been in 1996 or 1997 because of my contract situation in Chicago. But nothing ever really materialized.”

“If Chicago had not made a significant offer, New York was next,” MJ added. “We actually had a dialogue with New York. If a phone call didn’t come in 30 minutes from Chicago, we had already given assurances that we would have gone to the Knicks for less money.”

MJ demanded $36 million from the Bulls
One day after winning the 1996 NBA MVP award, Michael demanded a two-year $36 million deal from the Bulls. Jordan had just led Chicago to a fourth NBA championship in six years and was still the best player in the NBA during that time.

As the league’s top dog, MJ also wanted to be its top earner for the upcoming season. Jordan was underpaid in recent years as a result of his 8-year $25.7 million deal signed in 1988. That deal was up after the 1995-96 campaign, one where MJ made a mere $4 million.

While Jordan didn’t say how he came up with the $18 million-per-year figure, he must have based it on what his agent David Falk negotiated for Patrick Ewing, who made $18.7 million during the 1995-96 season.

Jordan’s absolute bottom figure
The thing with Jordan’s salary demand was that he said it was “the absolute bottom figure.” MJ went on to threaten to “go elsewhere for whatever” if the Bulls messed around with him. He added that he would play for another team for less than $10 million just to prove his point.

While Jerry Krause and the Bulls were calculating the numbers, the Knicks made moves to go below the salary cap by $12 million. Then there was talk that ITT, a company that used to own the Knicks, would pay Jordan to be the spokesman for Sheraton Hotels. The total compensation would have been $25 million.

That offer led to another urban legend, one where Falk called Reinsdorf to give him an ultimatum to beat the Knicks’ $25 million offer, or else Jordan would head to the Big Apple. Most stories said Falk gave the Bulls an hour to top New York’s proposal. However,  based on what MJ said to Shanken, Chicago was 30 minutes away from losing the GOAT.