For teams who thought they would never get past the Chicago Bulls, here's the good news: They're breaking up that old gang of theirs.
In a surprise development, Michael Jordan Friday agreed to a one-year deal--for a whopping $30 million, according to the Chicago Tribune, the biggest single-season contract ever in American team sports--suggesting he may leave the Bulls next summer, or retire.
So far, it has been a turbulent off-season for history's winningest team. Coach Phil Jackson, whom Jordan had insisted be retained, signed his own one-year deal. He's expected to leave in 1997, having lost a power struggle that owner Jerry Reinsdorf settled in favor of General Manager Jerry Krause.
Dennis Rodman, also a free agent, is expected to be offered another one-year deal, which he says is fine with him. But Rodman announced recently he didn't like the way the Bulls treated Jackson and he won't stay around longer than a year, either.
"You got a coach [Jackson] that's won four championships in six years and all of a sudden you give this coach $2 million," Rodman said.
"You got a coach coming from college [John Calipari, from Massachusetts to the New Jersey Nets] and you give him $15 million over five years. I think that was a bad deal. . . . There's something going on in Chicago. If I sign something, it's going to be a one-year deal."
Jordan had talked of playing three more years at midseason and of playing two more during the playoffs. Friday, less than 24 hours after the start of negotiations, he agreed to the one-year deal.
The Tribune, citing an unnamed source, reported it was for $30 million, dwarfing the second-biggest NBA contract, Patrick Ewing's $18.7 million last season which was actually a balloon payment that was added to his contract of five seasons ago.
Reinsdorf said telephone negotiations with agent David Falk took less than an hour, that Jordan requested one year "because he never wants to play if he is unable to meet his own high standards.
"This way Michael and the Bulls will be able to discuss what is appropriate after each subsequent season," Reinsdorf said. "Michael's desire for a one-year contract is refreshing in this era where athletes often seek to be paid beyond their productive years."
Jordan was playing in a celebrity golf tournament in Stateline, Nev.
"This is something Jerry and I agreed upon," he told the Associated Press. "It really didn't take any negotiations, which is the way I wanted it. I'm very happy with the agreement we have.
"This team could have a good chance of winning the championship again. Then after that, you don't know. They may want to take a business approach to it and change the team. And I want to give them the flexibility to do that."
With no desire to give Jordan a two-year deal, which he would have to honor if Jordan retired in a year, Reinsdorf readily agreed.
Of course, if the one season ends badly, and perhaps even if it doesn't, the Jordan era in Chicago may be basketball history.
Jordan is the first free agent to have agreed to terms. There was speculation he would come in around $20 million--he had even volunteered to sign for two years at $36 million--so this wasn't good news for owners and general managers.
"I'm not using Jordan as any kind of standard," said Indiana Pacer President Donnie Walsh. "He's unique.
"I know people say we should all pay his salary, but the Bulls won the championships. They get the bill."
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Making the Big Bucks
The top five annual salaries in each sport:
Cecil Fielder, Tigers: $9,237,500
Barry Bonds, Giants: $8,416,667
Ken Griffey, Mariners: $7,500,000
Frank Thomas, White Sox: $7,150,000
Juan Gonzalez, Rangers: $7,100,000
Deion Sanders, Cowboys: $13,500,000
Drew Bledsoe, Patriots: $13,200,000
Ki-Jana Carter, Bengals: $7,900,000
Jerry Rice, 49ers: $6,500,000
Michael Irvin, Cowboys: $6,200,000
Michael Jordan, Bulls: $25,000,000
David Robinson, Spurs: $7,600,000
Kevin Johnson, Suns: $7,000,000
Chris Webber, Bullets: $7,000,000
Derrick Coleman, 76ers: $6,740,000
Wayne Gretzky, Blues: $6,543,363
Mark Messier, Rangers: $6,000,000
Keith Tkachuck, Jets: $6,000,000
Mario Lemieux, Penguins: $4,571,429
Pavel Bure, Canucks: $4,500,000