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Michael Jordan, secret suspension, gambling

Everything we know about the 1993-94 Michael Jordan ‘secret suspension’ rumors due to gambling

Michael Jordan denied having a gambling problem in 1993, instead calling it a “competition problem.” Either way, from quarters with security guards to rock-paper-scissors to high-stakes golfing, His Airness clearly enjoys a good wager. All of this, in a minute, will lead us to the NBA conspiracy theory to end them all, as it is rumored MJ served a secret suspension due to gambling.

Jordan apparently mentioned betting in a letter to his prom date. A $5 check from a North Carolina pool game recently went for auction. In “Playing For Keeps,” David Halberstam recalled Jordan betting with Tar Heels teammates and coaches during practices. As a pro, Jordan famously played cards with beat writers and teammates—for huge amounts when possible. He placed (rigged) bets on Jumbotron races and baggage claims.

Eventually, Jordan’s gambling got him in serious hot water. In the 1992 trial of convicted drug dealer Slim Bouler (who would be sentenced to nine years for money laundering and conspiracy), Jordan testified that he owed Bouler $57,000 from golf bets after initially saying the check was for a loan.

In 1993, San Diego businessman Richard Equinas claimed Jordan owed him $1.25 million in golf debts. Around the same time, his gambling caused a public stir after a putrid showing vs. the Knicks in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals following a late night in Atlantic City. (He bounced back).

Bulls, Michael Jordan

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After the Bulls three-peated, the NBA reprimanded Michael Jordan and launched (limited) investigations into his gambling. The probe revealed that checks signed by Jordan were found in ongoing criminal investigations, including $108,000 in checks in the briefcase of a murdered bail bondsman, Eddie Bow, who had attended a few “Mike’s Time” gatherings of poker and golf hosted by Jordan.

Jordan was never found to have bet on games. In “Money Players Days and Nights Inside the New NBA,” Armen Keteyian says Equinas told NBA investigators he overheard Jordan inquiring about point spreads on the phone.

“I never bet on games; I bet on myself and that was golf,” Michael Jordan said in “The Last Dance.”

“It never reached epic crisis levels in my view,” Stern said.

Four months later, Jordan’s abrupt retirement in October—followed by the NBA clearing Jordan one day later—fueled speculation that he was being secretly suspended by Stern. The fact that Jordan said that he’d consider a return “five years down the road … if David Stern lets me back in the league” during his retirement press conference raised eyebrows, too. When Jordan announced he would head to Birmingham, Alabama to play baseball, it appeared to some as a convenient distraction to allow the most marketable human on the planet to save his image.

More disturbingly, the Orange County Register and Bulls broadcaster Norm Van Lier, among others, irresponsibly wondered if Jordan’s gambling woes were linked to the murder of his father, James, earlier that summer, putting the baseless notion in the public consciousness.

These theories can be easily debunked, and the fact that Stern apparently lobbied hard for Jordan’s approval to purchase the Charlotte Bobcats implies a knowledge that nothing too damaging in his past.

Michael Jordan seems to have stayed out of trouble since, and a catalog of amusing anecdotes indicates that MJ is still happily throwing money around to satisfy his competitive urges. With a net worth of $2.1 billion, I can’t blame him.