The¬†Michael Jordan¬†content train rolls on this week and we’ve got a pretty interesting “what if?” discussion for you today. This weekend’s installments of “The Last Dance” will touch on Jordan’s retirement(s) and what went into those decisions… but what if MJ had decided to keep playing beyond 1998 instead of retiring from the Bulls for a second time?
It’s a question worth asking because 1) we don’t have a lot else to do right now, and 2) there are a number of intriguing possibilities to explore. Jordan may have wanted to continuing playing with the¬†Bulls¬†in an attempt to keep the championship reign alive, but Chicago (see:¬†Jerry Krause) essentially forced MJ into retirement by parting ways with¬†Phil Jackson¬†and¬†Scottie Pippen.
What if he’d kept playing, just for someone else? What if he’d explored his options in free agency during the summer of 1999? Our Bryan DeArdo and Sam Quinn tackled that question and¬†found the best five landing spots¬†for Jordan in a sign-and-trade scenario:
  1. Knicks¬†– The Knicks went after Jordan in free agency in 1996 and they almost got him, so who’s to say they couldn’t have sealed the deal in ’99? Imagine this: New York sends¬†Allan Houston,¬†Chris Childs, Marcus Camby, Buck Williams¬†and¬†Charlie Ward¬†to Chicago in exchange for Jordan. They’d lose out on valuable depth but would pair a true superstar with¬†Patrick Ewing, who was one of Jordan’s closest friends in the NBA. Jordan would have been able to play at his favorite NBA arena every home game, and the Knicks may have finally gotten over the hump
  2. Lakers –¬†Imagine Jordan teaming up with¬†Shaq¬†and¬†Kobe¬†in Los Angeles? The Lakers were coming off two straight postseasons in which they were knocked off by the¬†Jazz, so maybe they would have looked to Jordan to come in and help lead them past Utah. If MJ was hunting more rings, this probably would have been the most appealing destination. It’s hard to imagine that Big Three not winning at least one title together. Perhaps sending¬†Elden Campbell, Robert Horry, Travis Knight¬†and¬†Sean Rooks¬†to Chicago would have been enough to land MJ in Hollywood
  3. Heat –¬†Jordan and¬†Pat Riley¬†together in South Beach? That’s a fun thought, especially when you throw¬†Alonzo Mourning¬†and¬†Jamal Mashburn¬†into the mix as well. Miami would have been able to put together a strong roster capable of making a run at the NBA title, even after trading¬†Tim Hardaway, P.J. Brown, Dan Majerle, Mark Strickland¬†and¬†Terry Mills¬†to the Bulls in this scenario
  4. Hornets –¬†What if Jordan’s ownership of the Hornets was preceded by him playing in Charlotte? Here’s the deal:¬†Anthony Mason, Bobby Phills¬†and¬†David Wesley¬†to the Bulls for Jordan. The roster situation in 1999 may not have been as enticing as some of the other options on this list —¬†Glen Rice¬†and Jordan’s former Bulls teammate¬†B.J. Armstrong¬†would’ve been his running mates — but maybe MJ would have felt sentimental about returning home to North Carolina and chasing a championship in his hometown in the twilight of his career
  5. Raptors¬†– Let’s consider Toronto here. The Raptors just acquired Jordan’s good friend,¬†Charles Oakley, from the Knicks and were fresh off selecting¬†Vince Carter, a fellow UNC product, in the ’98 NBA Draft. Oh, and¬†Isiah Thomas¬†had just left his position running the team’s basketball operations following an ownership dispute too. You just know Jordan would have loved going to Toronto just after Isiah left the organization. It would have been an all-time petty move.¬†Sharone Wright, Dee Brown, Doug Christie, Kevin Willis, B.J. Tyler¬†and¬†Chauncey Billups¬†to Chicago work for you?
Thinking about this makes me kinda wish there was a documentary series detailing how things would have played out had Jordan going to each of these teams. There was a time when the idea of Jordan playing in any other NBA uniform was preposterous, so any one of these moves would have completely rocked the NBA landscape. They also would have changed the course of history, especially when you consider the butterfly effects.
And I’ve gotta say, Jordan joining the Knicks or Lakers sounds infinitely cooler than the reality we got in Washington some years later.

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