ESPN’s 10-part docu-series, The Last Dance — which covers Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls during their final championship season in 1997-98 — has undoubtedly captured the imagination of sports fans and put Jordan’s incredible basketball career back in the spotlight. Longtime fans will remember, though, that Jordan’s NBA career didn’t actually end at the conclusion of the ’97-98 campaign — after a three-year retirement, he returned to play two more seasons with the Washington Wizards. His time there was a mixed bag with regard to his legacy, however, and could have gone another way entirely, according to Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban.
Per The Dallas Morning News, Cuban told the Dallas-Fort Worth-based radio station 105.3 The Fan during a recent interview that he attempted to dissuade Jordan from signing with the Wizards and instead make his return with the Mavericks.
As Cuban tells it, Jordan’s agent — David Falk — prompted the Mavericks owner to meet with the NBA legend on the very day he was to sign his player contract with Washington. He did so at Falk’s office and unsuccessfully pitched Jordan on a potential move to the Lone Star State.
“I do have one Michael Jordan story. The day he signed with the Washington Wizards to come back, right when I was buying the Mavs, David Falk said, ‘Why don’t you go meet him?’ So I went to David Falk’s office and all the papers were there and I was trying to convince him not to sign them and to do something with the Mavs.”
Although he played well in Washington and led the team to consecutive 37-win seasons after the Wizards had won just 19 games the year before his comeback, Jordan signing with the Mavericks could have been a game-changer for that franchise and surely would have made for a more winning end to his own career. Led by Dirk Nowitzki and Steve Nash, Dallas was a top-five team both years and tied the San Antonio Spurs for the NBA’s best record in the 2002-03 season at 60-22.
A still-capable Jordan joining the future Hall of Famers, as well as two-time All-Star Michael Finley and former All-Star Nick Van Exel, may have been the extra push the Mavericks needed to get over the hump and win an NBA championship at the time. Even without him, the club still reached the Western Conference Finals in 2003 and put up a respectable fight against the Spurs, who became champion that year.
If things had played out differently, Jordan may have even led Dallas to a title years earlier. As reported by The Inquisitr, the Mavericks were rumored to have attempted to trade up and draft Jordan back in 1984.
Ultimately, the Mavericks were still able to break through and capture the title in 2006, but Jordan joining the Mavs could still go down as one of the greatest “what-ifs” in recent basketball history.