Michael Jordan faced a wave of criticism for his gambling habits, some that stretched even as the Chicago Bulls megastar reached the NBA playoffs. After going down 0-2 to the New York Knicks in the 1993 Eastern Conference Finals, Jordan was spotted gambling in Atlantic City, something “The Last Dance” docuseries revisited.
Jordan was chastised for his decision to gamble, even though he wasn't breaking any teams rules or breaking curfew. After giving the media the cold shoulder for the better part of two weeks, he cleared it up with an infamous interview with Ahmad Rashad that featured Jordan wearing dark sunglasses inside.
“My father said, ‘Let’s get away from New York City. Let’s you and I go to Atlantic City.’ We got a limo and went and gambled for a couple of hours and came back. Everybody went totally ballistic – ‘He was in the casino last night.’ It wasn’t late. We got home by 12:30, one o’clock.”
“The Last Dance” features a modern-day Jordan defending his gambling similarly:
“I’m actually playing golf with people all the time… and if they want to gamble, we gamble. The character of those individuals, I found out later what kind of people I was playing with. I learned that lesson. But the act of gambling? I didn’t do anything wrong…
“I never bet on games; I only bet on myself and that was golf… I told [the NBA league office] exactly what was happening,”
Jordan wrapped up his defense with a line for the ages:
“I don't have a gambling problem, I have a competition problem.”
That much is true. “The Last Dance” shows Jordan playing for thousands of dollars in the back of the plane with the big rollers, only to go to the front of the plane and play blackjack with Will Perdue and other role players for $1. He rolled coins shuffleboard style with team security, bet on horse racing, and even raced his teammates to the bus.
That “competition problem” ultimately made him as good as he is and geared his drive to succeed in his NBA career.