Inside the Knicks' secret attempt to lure Michael Jordan from the Bulls.

MONTHS AFTER THE 1998 NBA Finals, Michael Jordan sat on one side of a giant table inside a Manhattan conference room. It was the site of a bargaining session between NBA owners and players. The league was embroiled in a lockout. The season was in jeopardy. But Jordan had other unfinished business to attend to.

Now, Jordan stared at Checketts, as the occupants of the room settled into place for the proceedings, and leaned into the microphone. "Still trying to beat the Bulls, are you?" Jordan said. A knowing look passed between the two men. Left unsaid was a paradigm-shifting signing from two years earlier -- Jordan to the Knicks -- that never came to be. It was a potential move, if the rumors were to be believed, that threatened to alter the NBA's balance of power in the summer of 1996. It came at a time when the beginning of increased player power and movement coincided with Jordan, at his apex, becoming an unrestricted free agent for the first time.

This is the oral history of that negotiation, the NBA's financial forces that made it a possibility and the subsequent fallout. It was a realignment of star power that could have ended one dynasty and created a new one. That is, again, if you believe the rumors.