How the Celtics tried to team Michael Jordan up with Dominique Wilkins in 1994
The Boston Celtics of the ’90s were still reeling from Larry Bird’s retirement and the end of an era in 1992. Following Michael Jordan retiring in 1994, then-general manager M.L. Carr saw a window of opportunity, hoping to lure the former MVP out of retirement and pair him with Dominique Wilkins, his former Slam Dunk Contest rival.
Former Chicago Bulls general manager Jerry Krause denied ever having this conversation with Carr, but the latter offered it indeed took place:
“As I understand it, Jerry denied having the conversation, which is absolutely not true,” the former Celtics GM told Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston. “We did have a conversation. I reached out to Jerry, realizing that Michael had left the game. I knew Michael was not gone forever.
“I offered Jerry a first-round draft pick [to simply talk with Jordan] and he goes, ‘Well, M.L., Mike is not coming back. He’s retired.’ Well, he is coming back. I think he is. But he denied the fact that I did that, I guess to save face with his owners. … I thought, [Jordan] had already done it in that Chicago uniform, if he got a chance to come to Boston, put on the green, what a great thing that would be from a marketing standpoint. He would have made a fortune. … It didn’t happen. It would have been wonderful.”
At the time, Carr had made his first splash signing in the 34-year-old Wilkins, hoping to sweeten the pot by putting a star-caliber player on the roster. Wilkins denies being looped in on that intent:
“I don’t think so,” said Wilkins, who laughed when apprised of the plan to play him next to Jordan. “It would have been nice. I’d have to loved to play with him, are you kidding? But, if that was true, you would have heard about that before now.”
Krause himself denied the conversation taking place:
“I must have lost my memory because I don’t remember talking to M.L. about that subject. I think I would have remembered it and I don’t. I don’t know if there was some miscalculation of translation. I looked at my notes from my conversation with M.L., and it’s not in my notes.”
Others chuck it to Carr being a convincing storyteller, unwillingly turning what was likely taken as an off-handed comment to some palpable offer:
“I just threw the idea up one time on the phone. [Krause] probably thought I was crazy. The offer is out there,” Carr told The Associated Press back in 1994. “You may think it’s far-fetched but you don’t know what [Jordan is] thinking. I’ll shag balls for him. I’ll do anything. Please, Michael, come to Boston.”
If Carr really signed Wilkins to play next to Jordan, it was likely a plan meant to fail. Wilkins played only one season with the Celtics (1994-95), averaging 17.8 points per game — a steep descent from the 26 points per game he had averaged in 1993-94.
He then played in Greece for one season before returning to the NBA in 1995-96 with the San Antonio Spurs, going off to Italy the following season and returning for one last dance in 1998-99 for a 27-game stint with the Orlando Magic, where he averaged a mere 5.0 points and 2.6 rebounds per game.