In 1990, Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson were very close to playing 1-on-1 in a pay-per-view televised contest in Las Vegas.

Sounds made up, but it’s true.

Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson almost had everything in order and were very close to organizing a massive event in Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. The event was branded as “King of the Court,” and the idea was for MJ and Magic to play a game of 1-on-1, where the winner takes home $1 million. The game would consist of two 15 minute halves.

I came up with the idea.

– Magic Johnson

Although Magic Johnson went on record saying it was all his idea to play against MJ, so his people reached out to MJ’s to work out a deal — the real orchestrators of this event were Lou DiBella and Seth Abraham.

DiBella and Abraham had already made tons of money organizing pay-per-view boxing, so they were in search of another event that could potentially generate colossal interest and captivate millions of people. You have to give it up to them, I know I would love to watch MJ and Magic go against each other in this kind of setup.

In an interview with Roy Firestone, Jordan commented on the potential event and expressed his thoughts on how the game would go:

Not to sound cocky, I must admit I would have to have the advantage being that I would be a little bit quicker and able to use a lot more weapons than he may.

– Micheal Jordan

The deal ultimately fell through because of a few reasons. First, the National Basketball Players Association president at the time — Isiah Thomas was against the idea. We all know Thomas held grudges towards MJ, so it’s no surprise he made sure the event didn’t happen.

I believe that this sets a bad precedent.

– Isiah Thomas

Secondly, the NBA was never going to allow for an event like this to happen where two of its best players, who were popularized by the NBA, create an event, league, or competition that could endanger the NBA and potentially bite off a bit of NBA’s market share.

We’re not interested in seeing our players being promoted like fighters in Las Vegas.

– Gary Bettman, then a lawyer for the NBA.

Imagine if King of the Court actually happened, there’s no doubt it would have been huge and something an average NBA fan would love to see. Just think of all the potential matchups! It’s no surprise the NBA wanted nothing of the sort.


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