After the Chicago Bulls lost to the Orlando Magic in the 1995 Eastern Conference semifinals, Michael Jordan went to work on his body and basketball game in the summer. While filming Space Jam, the Bulls superstar trained at the Jordan Dome tirelessly, transforming his body from a baseball frame to a basketball one and getting his hoop skills back to where they needed to be after playing baseball.
Along with working on his body and basketball fundamentals in the summer, Jordan also took a trip to a New York City bar one night to recruit a future All-Star forward to the Bulls. The MVP was so determined to snag the player that he waited over an hour at the bar to make his pitch.
Michael Jordan went to a bar in Greenwich Village to personally recruit Jayson Williams
Before the Bulls acquired Dennis Rodman from the San Antonio Spurs on Oct. 2, 1995, they were interested in signing New Jersey Nets free-agent power forward Jayson Williams. Jordan was a big fan of Williams, so much so that he met with the Nets forward in a Greenwich Village nightclub and waited almost an hour to make his pitch (h/t Chicago Sports historian Jack M Silverstein).
“He told me all he needs is for me to rebound, and he’ll get me two or three rings,” Williams told Sam Smith of the Chicago Tribune in 1995. “He was all over me. He said I was at the top of list. He said, ‘I had to come all the way to your neighborhood to find you.'”
Williams averaged 4.8 points and 5.7 rebounds for the Nets in 1994-95. He would have been an excellent addition to the Bulls, who needed a talented frontcourt player after losing Horace Grant to the Magic in 1994. Despite getting recruited by Jordan, though, Williams chose to re-sign with the Nets and went on to make his first and only All-Star appearance in 1997-98.
After missing out on Williams, the Bulls turned to the trade market to find their replacement for Grant, and they struck gold by landing the best rebounder in the NBA.
Bulls acquired Dennis Rodman after missing out on Jayson Williams
The Bulls traded Will Perdue to the Spurs for Rodman in October 1995. It was a polarizing move since the Worm acted out in San Antonio and was part of the Detroit Pistons teams that physically beat up Jordan and Co.
However, Rodman was a perfect fit in Chicago. He surprisingly meshed well with Jordan, Scottie Pippen, and Phil Jackson and helped the Bulls win 72 games during his first year in the Windy City. The two-time Defensive Player of the Year won three consecutive rebounding titles and three straight championships with Chicago.
Jordan and Rodman faced Williams and the Nets in the first round of the 1998 playoffs. Since MJ took everything personally, he likely couldn’t wait to destroy Williams for saying no to him in 1995.
Michael Jordan averaged 36.3 points vs. Nets in ’98 playoffs
The Bulls swept the Nets in the first round of the 1998 playoffs. Jordan averaged 36.3 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 2.7 assists while shooting 52.9% from the field in the three-game sweep.
Williams averaged 7.0 points and 14.0 rebounds for the Nets. However, New Jersey had zero answers for Jordan, who was not going to let anyone stop him from winning his sixth title. After sweeping the Nets, the Bulls beat the Charlotte Hornets and Indiana Pacers to reach the NBA Finals, where the Utah Jazz were once again their opponent.
The Jazz had home-court advantage in the series, but that didn’t bother Jordan. The 10-time scoring champion led the Bulls to a six-game series win to cap off his legendary Chicago career. Jordan won six titles with the Bulls and went 6-0 in the Finals. Williams, who never won a championship during his career, clearly made a mistake in 1995 by re-signing with the Nets instead of joining Superman in Chicago.