"The day Michael Jordan was able to play in Estudiantes." It sounds surreal, but that's an actual cover of the Spanish newspaper "Gigantes" from 21 years ago. And it nearly became a reality.
After MJ and the Bulls won the championship in 1998 -- sixth in eight years -- the greatest basketball dynasty ever came to an end. Scottie Pippen was traded to the Rockets, Phil Jackson signed a five-year deal with the Lakers, Dennis Rodman followed his steps coming after his Bulls release, and Michael retired for the second time. At the same time, the NBA entered a lockout, after "the union filed an unfair labor complaint with the National Labor Relations Board."
In the midst of the lockout, before MJ announced he's calling it quits, Adecco Estudiantes Madrid tried to persuade His Airness to take his talents to Spain and have one last dance overseas. They offered him 2 million pesetas (former monetary unit of Spain, equivalent to $14,000) for the four months that remained of the ACB league, with a special "hook" -- private golf lessons with a legendary Spanish golfer Severiano Ballesteros.
"It was a worldwide operation ” said Paco Torres, director of Gigantes. “The budget was separate from the specific sponsorship of Estudiantes. Adecco, at its headquarters in San Francisco, had approved those 2,000 million for Jordan to wear the Estudiantes jersey. The impact would have been immediate: everything MJ touches turns into gold."
Unfortunately for Estudiantes, the end of the lockout in January 1999 ended their dreams of acquiring MJ, despite the fact his inner circle seriously considered the offer.
Jordan's agents came to assess the offer, which was real, but the lockout ended before it could have reached Michael himself.
Paco Torres, Marca
What would Jordan's arrival have meant for the Spanish league? “We are not able to assess it," Torres said. "It would have been an absolute and total impact to have the best player of all time in the ACB. It would have opened all the news and newspapers in the world."
35-year-old Michael announced his retirement from professional basketball on January 13, 1999, saying he was "99.9 percent confident he wouldn't return to the league." In 2001, he made his NBA comeback as a member of the Washington Wizards. But he never got to play in Spain, although, at one point at least, that seemed like a real possibility.
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