While Michael Jordan spent most of his career with the Chicago Bulls, he did wear a few other uniforms. His Airness spent three seasons in Carolina blue during his time in college; he also briefly tried his hand at professional baseball and played his final two seasons with the Washington Wizards. That final return to the NBA, however, could have been quite different if Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban got his way.
In 2001, Jordan announced that he would come out of retirement to join the Washington Wizards. Before the deal was formalized, however, Mark Cuban intervened, hoping to bring MJ to Dallas.
Michael Jordan’s road to the Washington Wizards
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During his time in the NBA, Michael Jordan did things his own way. While his incredible talent and drive usually meant things went off without a hitch, his time in Chicago wasn’t always straight forward.
The Bulls selected Jordan with the third-overall pick of the 1984 draft, and the guard immediately made an impact. His Airness promptly claimed the Rookie of the Year title; by his third season in the league, he was averaging more than 30 points per game. While the Detroit Pistons proved to be a bit of a roadblock, Jordan and his teammates eventually broke through, winning three consecutive NBA titles.
At the height of his stardom, however, Jordan walked away from the NBA to try his hand at baseball. He spent the 1994 season plying his trade in the minors before returning to the hardwood at the tail end of the 1995 campaign. His Airness then led the Bulls to a second three-peat, winning the 1996, 1997, and 1998 titles.
After that sixth title, though, the Chicago Bulls broke up. With Phil Jackson, Scottie Pippen, and Dennis Rodman all on their way out of town, Jordan retired for a second time. He didn’t leave basketball, however, instead joining the Washington Wizards organization as a part-owner and the head of basketball operations.
Mark Cuban tried to bring Michael Jordan to the Dallas Mavericks
While Michael Jordan pledged his second retirement would be his last, His Airness couldn’t resist the lure of competition. In 2001, he decided to return to the hardwood and suit up for the Washington Wizards; Mark Cuban, however, tried to step in and make a last-minute pitch.
“The day he signed with the Washington Wizards to come back,” Cuban remembered on 105.3 The Fan, “that’s right when I was buying the Mavs, and David Falk [Jordan’s agent] said, ‘Why don’t you go meet him?’ I went to David Falk’s office, and all the papers were right there. And I was trying to convince MJ to not sign them and to do something with the Mavs.”
That something, according to CNBC, consisted of appealing to Jordan’s famous will to win. While he promised the Mavs would be better than the Wizards and that he’d do whatever it took to help His Airness win, the pitch fell on deaf ears.
“He was a man of his word and said he wouldn’t go back on his commitment,” Cuban explained. “So that part of the meeting was very, very, very short.”
Mark Cuban didn’t get his man, but he did have a point
Ultimately, Mark Cuban couldn’t change Jordan’s mind and the legend suited up for the Washington Wizards. The Dallas Mavericks owner, however, did make a good point during his pitch.
While Jordan still played well during his two-season comeback, he didn’t do much winning. The Wizards went 37-45 and missed out on the playoffs during both campaigns; the Mavs, on the other hand, won 57 and 60 games during those years, making it to the 2003 Western Conference Finals.
It’s impossible to know what might have happened if His Airness had headed to Texas, but the Mavericks were clearly the better team. If Jordan had listened to Mark Cuban, he might have lifted the Larry O’Brien Trophy one more time.
All stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference