Michael Jordan took losses on the courts — and his wallet.
It’s been no secret that Michael Jordan has faced many demons in his personal life, with none more obvious and apparent than his gambling habit. In the early ’90s, Jordan’s personal life came under scrutiny when he was spotted in Atlantic City the night before an Eastern Conference finals game vs. the Knicks.
In a subject that’s expected to be detailed during “The Last Dance,” there are a few gambling situations that have cropped up during Jordan’s career, including a golfer who claimed Jordan owed him over $1 million in the early ’90s.
Here are some of the facts that have given birth to one of the wildest conspiracy theories in NBA history.
Michael Jordan gambling with a drug dealer
One of the more infamous aspects of Jordan’s gambling habit was when he was called in front of a jury in 1992 to discuss a $57,000 personal check, which had been endorsed to James “Slim” Bouler, a convicted cocaine dealer.
During Bouler’s trial, Jordan was called to the stand to ask why the check made its way to Bouler. Jordan’s reasoning as to what the money was for changed: Originally, he claimed it was a loan to Bouler, but under oath during the trial, Jordan said it was to cover his gambling debt with Bouler.
Bouler claimed that Jordan had racked up quite a tab, mainly during high-stakes golf games throughout the late ’80s and early ’90s.
The murder of Michael Jordan’s dad
Jordan’s father was murdered in July 1993 during a carjacking in North Carolina. His body wouldn’t be discovered until August, when he was located in a South Carolina swamp.
Two teenagers, Daniel Green and Larry Martin Demery, were eventually tried and convicted of the crime and sentenced to life in prison.
Contrary to some speculation, there’s little veracity to the tale of Jordan’s father being murdered by the mob to send a message to Jordan for his gambling debt. More on that below.
Why did Michael Jordan retire?
Jordan’s first retirement came in October 1993. Citing a lack of desire to play and the death of his father three months earlier, Jordan shocked the NBA world by announcing his retirement. Jordan was coming off his third NBA championship and an Olympic gold medal as part of the 1992 Dream Team (which didn’t feature Isiah Thomas).
Here’s where it gets interesting, if conspiracy theories are your thing:
Tinfoil-hat wearers believe that Jordan’s first “retirement” was actually anything but. The conspiracy theory dictates that NBA commissioner David Stern actually had a clandestine agreement with Jordan to get his gambling habit under control before incurring any damage to the league or to Jordan himself. So, Stern suspended Jordan for a year while No. 23 got his personal life together, these theories contend.
Consider this: Jordan was becoming one of the most marketable and prominent professional athletes in history, so even though (most) of Jordan’s gambling habits were legal, the image of Jordan having an outstanding gambling debt with a convicted drug dealer would be potentially harmful to Jordan and the league. Jordan was also spotted at a blackjack table in Atlantic City the night before an Eastern Conference finals game against the Knicks.
Still, Stern maintained on several occasions that Jordan’s retirement was totally legitimate. Hard to believe that even a league as powerful as the NBA would be able to keep something like that a secret, all these years later, after all.