Everything has its price. In Michael Jordan’s case, he was almost tempted to play in Spain, accepting a smaller salary but with an added incentive outside basketball.
Golf lessons from Severiano Ballesteros
In 1999, the NBA had to shorten its season due to a lockout. Michael Jordan had already hung up his shoes at that time, after announcing his retirement in January 1999. However, he was given an offer that was too good to pass up: play in Spanish League ACB, not because of salary, but because of golf lessons from the legendary Severiano Ballesteros.
Seve won several titles in his career, including 50 European Tour victories and five major championships. With his love for golf, MJ thought twice about the offer. You don’t get this deal often, and Ballesteros was one of the most respected players in golf.
Estudiantes Madrid of the Liga ACB offered $12 million and private lessons from Seve for four months. Objectively speaking, the offer wasn’t bad. It would be like almost a vacation for Jordan, living in another country, soaking up important golf lessons, and playing against lesser competition. Mike could always make a comeback from retirement and do whatever he wanted to do after four months. Jordan’s representatives allegedly studied the offer, but the NBA had ended its lockout, effectively shutting down MJ from playing elsewhere.
In 2000, MJ returned to the NBA as part-owner and president of basketball operations of the Washington Wizards. A year after, he decided to come out of retirement to play for his team. His run with the Wizards lasted two years.
Why it would have been a win-win scenario
In 1999, MJ had virtually won everything a basketball player could ever hope to win. Jordan was already a household name, and had he played in Spain, imagine the chaos it could have created with all the marketing possibilities happening left and right.
Estudiantes Madrid could have recouped its investment in Jordan via jersey sales alone. It would have created a fairy tale story for Estudiantes and its fans. Maybe, if the private golf lessons were offered for a year and a golf course to be used exclusively by Michael Jordan were brought to the table, His Airness might have signed the deal.
Fortunately for NBA fans, MJ didn’t sign the deal. Instead, they got a chance to see him play for a few more years in Washington. Madrid fans were hard lucked, but it was a blessing in disguise for the Jordan diehards in the NBA.