His leverage? The threat of retirement. But Jordan's

By Rick Gano Associated Press Published:

His leverage? The threat of retirement.

But Jordan's coming back. And he's commanded another huge salary to lead that bid for a sixth championship of the 1990s.

Money is not the only object _ at least not for a man who has been making millions in off-court endorsements for years.

Jordan can now preside over what might be a last running of these Bulls. He agreed to a one-year deal after a quick Las Vegas meeting Tuesday with team chairman Jerry Reinsdorf. His return was announced Wednesday.

"Jerry and I have a special relationship which enables us to work cooperatively. I am committed to Chicago and to winning. So is Jerry," said Jordan, who is in Las Vegas this week to run a fantasy basketball camp.

"I'm delighted and excited to be back again. I look forward to helping bring another NBA championship to Chicago," he said in a statement.

The Bulls did not comment Wednesday on the value of the contract that follows Jordan's record $30.14 million deal last season.

He was believed to be asking for at least $36 million. Some reports say the contract is for $38 million, with incentives pushing it all the way to $41 million, although a source said that figure would appear to be high.

A nine-time scoring champion, four-time regular-season MVP and the MVP of the NBA Finals five times, Jordan laid out requirements for returning, and a major one was met earlier this summer.

Threatening retirement, Jordan said he'd only play for coach Phil Jackson. And Jackson _ also after a face-to-face meeting with Reinsdorf _ agreed to a one-year, $6 million deal.

Jordan also said he wanted a promise in his new deal that his good friend and teammate Scottie Pippen, who was nearly traded in June, would remain with the Bulls.

It is not known if that assurance was granted. Reinsdorf had said earlier he was not inclined to make that guarantee to Jordan.

Pippen will make $2.7 million next season in the final year of an eight-year contract. It is his future free agency, as well as the fact that he turns 32 in September, that had the Bulls considering a trade.

General manager Jerry Krause has said it would be Jackson's final season with the Bulls. Pippen will probably not be back after 1997-98, and the team might look to rebuild, meaning Jordan's future after one more season is unclear. He will be 35 in February.

"After sitting down with Michael, it was quite evident in our conversation that both of us continue to care very deeply about the Bulls organization, its fans and where this franchise is headed," Reinsdorf said in the team release.

"That made Tuesday's discussion easy. Now we can turn our full attention to bringing a sixth championship to the city of Chicago."

Reinsdorf now must deal with the decision of whether to sign another member of the last two championship teams. Bad boy forward Dennis Rodman, the six-time NBA rebounding champion who missed 27 games last season because of suspension and injury, is a free agent.

He certainly will not get the $9 million he received last year.

"My main desire is to re-sign with the Bulls," Rodman told the Chicago Sun-Times this week.

"Our next order of business will be Dennis," Krause told the Chicago Tribune, adding that he hoped to start negotiations next week.

About an hour after the Bulls wrapped up a six-game victory over Utah in the Finals in June, Jordan was strong in his opinion on the team's future.

He said the Bulls earned the right with what they had accomplished _ 72- and 69-win regular seasons and two more titles _ to come back and defend, no matter the cost to Reinsdorf.

Jordan was pretty much unstoppable in the series victory over the Jazz.

He hit the winning baskets in Games 1 and 5 and set up Steve Kerr's winning jumper in Game 6. He averaged 32.3 points in the series and 31.1 in the playoffs.

Never did he prove his value more than in pivotal Game 5. Stricken with a stomach virus, a weakened, nauseous and fatigued Jordan scored 38 points and made the decisive 3-pointer with 25 seconds to go.

For his career, he has scored 5,307 points in 158 postseason games, a 33.6 average.

Since 1991, the only two years the Bulls didn't win the title were 1994, when Jordan was playing baseball, and 1995, when Jordan had just come out of retirement.

He retired suddenly in October 1993 after the Bulls completed their string of three straight titles, gave baseball a try in the Chicago White Sox organization and returned in March 1995 to the game he has ruled.

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