Don’t Wanna Be Like Mike

Stumbled across a cool old article about Michael Jordan. It’s weird how you literally have to relearn EVERYTHING you know.

October 6, 1993. Not what you’d call a red-letter date in history. But in the sporting world, especially the NBA, nothing could’ve been more shocking. Michael Jordan, the biggest and brightest star in the entire sporting world, suddenly announced his retirement from the NBA. Having just led his team, the Chicago Bulls, to its third World Championship in as many years, and still reeling from the tragic murder of his father James Jordan in July of that same year, MJ had had enough.

But almost forgotten in the hubbub surrounding his retirement was the NBA’s ongoing investigation into allegations of Michael Jordan’s gambling problem. Not surprisingly, just two days after Jordan’s speech, the NBA announced its five month long investigation had ended with the league apparently finding nothing of significance.

Under this squeaky clean surface, however, bubbled true ugliness. For I don’t believe that Michael Jordan willingly “retired” on that October morning, but was directed by the NBA and its commissioner David Stern to seek counseling for his growing addiction to gambling. An addiction that was well known both inside and outside the league, and one that had to be kept as invisible as possible so as not to tarnish the image of both Michael Jordan and the NBA.

High Stakes

In the 70’s, Dr. J brought excitement to the NBA. In the 80’s, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird added fuel to that smoldering fire with their skill and rivalry. But in the late 80’s and early 90’s, Michael Jordan turned that fire in an inferno. And with him, came an economic boom unlike anything the NBA had ever seen.

For Michael Jordan wasn’t just an NBA superstar. He was the NBA. It was estimated at one time that 70% of all basketball fans considered themselves Chicago Bulls fans –meaning Michael Jordan fans. Almost single-handedly, Jordan made the NBA into a commercial powerhouse. Ticket sales increased league wide (Jordan almost always played to sell-outs, both home and away). Merchandise (mainly Bulls jerseys with the number 23 emblazoned on them) flew off shelves. And most importantly to the NBA, the money taken in from TV revenues went through the roof. In 1985 (Jordan’s rookie year), CBS paid the NBA $188 million for a 4-year TV contract. In 1989, NBC was willing to shell out $600 million for that same amount of time. Who do you think the #1 attraction was?

However in the fall of 1991, a series of events began that threatened not only the image of Michael Jordan, but the millions of dollars his name meant.

Money on the Line

Michael Jordan craved competition. It was this passion that led to his compulsive gambling. He gambled on just about anything. While at North Carolina, he used to bet fellow players sodas or small amounts of money on free throws or games of “Horse.” Although not necessarily sanctioned by the team, it went largely ignored. These activities carried on into the pros, and with the huge influx of money, the stakes steadily increased. He played poker with his teammates on road trips and was known to be quite the shark. Bulls coaches would warn the younger players not to play poker with him– he was that good. He even gambled on the outcome of video games. [1] But it was golf, his second passion, which proved to be his downfall.

He began betting small, maybe $100 on a hole or a putt. But as his confidence on the golf course grew, so did the amounts of the bets. And why not? Jordan had plenty of money and he was a good golfer. Just not good enough to avoid losing to the wrong people.

In 1991, Jordan and a group of friends went on a week long gambling spree at his Hilton Head home in North Carolina, golfing all day and playing poker all night. By the time it ended, Jordan was into James “Slim” Bouler for $57,000 and Eddie Dow for $108,000. This in and of itself wouldn’t be such a big deal except for the fact that Bouler was a convicted cocaine dealer and had two probation violations for carrying semiautomatic weapons.

This was just the beginning for Jordan. On October 21, 1991, Jordan paid the $57,000 to Bouler who turned around and placed the money in an account for the “Golf-Tech Driving Range.” The IRS quickly seized it, believing the funds may have been ill gotten since Bouler was again under investigation for dealing cocaine.

Now the shit hit the fan for Jordan. In the wake of these dealings coming to light, Jordan told the press that the $57,000 was merely a loan to a friend to start a golf range. That lie carried a lot of weight. So much so that U.S. District Court Judge Graham C. Mullen ruled that the IRS violated Bouler’s rights in seizing the $57,000 check. Judge Mullen admitted that he based his ruling on Jordan’s claims that the money was a loan — even though he never actually questioned Jordan. [2]

That seemed to suffice. For a while. Then in February of 1992, Jordan’s gambling associate Eddie Dow was robbed of $20,000 and murdered just outside his home. In Dow’s belongings they found photocopies of three checks that totaled $108,000 — the exact amount Jordan had lost to him months earlier. Two of the checks were from Jordan’s personal account. The third was a cashier’s check made out by Jordan.

Then, almost one year to the day after originally paying Bouler the $57,000, Michael Jordan was in court at Bouler’s trial for drug and money-laundering charges. Under oath, during a nine minute testimony, Michael Jordan admitted that the $57,000 was not a loan but indeed a gambling debt…

You can read the rest at the disinformation archive

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jayurbzz


Another twenty some odd young adult who believes he sees things from a unique perspective. Here be my poetry & prose, short stories, favored school papers, rantings, and "blogs." Comment, critique, and profit.


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