Michael Jordan almost signed a four-month contract with Club Estudiantes during the 1998-99 NBA lockout, as the club offered to pay him $12 million along with special golf lessons.
Jordan was offered a deal where he didn't have to play much basketball at all. He could play golf throughout the week and then play basketball on the weekends. However, Estudiantes made the deal even sweeter. Everyone who's seen the documentary, The Last Dance knows how much Jordan Loved golf. They promised Jordan golf lessons with Severiano Ballesteros, a legendary golfer. He won a record 50 European titles and had a career that lasted almost 35 years.
According to Basketsession, a Spanish newspaper named Gigantes reported that Jordan's agents had reached an agreement with the Spanish team. A company called Adecco sponsored the Estudiantes from 1998-2005. The Swiss-based company used its headquarters in San Francisco to conduct the negotiations.
Jordan's cultural impact as a possible motive
Adecco had recently taken over the team. Michael Jordan would be a marquee signing that, in many ways, no one could have competed with. Jordan would have made the team unstoppable on the court and given them larger publicity than anyone can imagine. Michael Jordan was a worldwide phenomenon, especially in Europe. This move could have been transformative for the Spanish Basketball League.
Unfortunately for the Estudiantes, the lockout ended in January 1999. Communications then broke down, and Jordan announced he would retire a week after the lockout had ended. He would come back and sign for the Wizards a year later, but seeing him in Spain would probably have had a larger effect on international basketball than we can theorize. Perhaps more American ex-players would sign to the league, a phenomenon now observable with the Chinese Basketball league.
Throughout his career, Michael Jordan has been involved in many culture-changing what-ifs, like how he almost signed with Adidas over Nike. But this move would have undoubtedly changed a lot of international basketball as we know it.