Knicks Offered Michael Jordan Huge Deal in 1996
In the end, Jordan signed a one-year $30 million contract with the Bulls, and then in 1997-98, a one-year $33 million deal for his final Bulls contract. But there were some at the time who believed Jordan, like LeBron James now, wanted the Madison Square Garden/New York City spotlight to conclude his glorious career. Though it’s also a function of the players there at the time, and the Knicks of 1996-97 were a good team with Patrick Ewing, a healthy Allan Houston and Jordan’s best buddy, Charles Oakley. With Jordan, they likely would have been champions. They seemed a lot better prepared to guarantee Jordan a title than they would now with James in two years.
ITT was a part owner and one of its properties was Sheraton Hotels. Though any compensation other than salary has to be included in the salary cap, strange things can happen in the NBA regarding a New York franchise. So the plan being cooked up was to somehow—I never heard quite how—get Jordan substantial Sheraton holdings, perhaps in endorsement money which would be separate from the salary cap and seemingly within the rules.
Jordan was just concluding his eight-year $25 million contract with the Bulls, signed in 1988 as the Bulls only re-negotiation ever. It was precedent setting at the time with no athlete ever making as much, but soon outdated with expanding league revenue and salary cap. Jordan stuck to it, and perhaps as thanks, the Bulls paid him his full basketball salary the 18 months Jordan was out playing baseball.