Michael Jordan insists he never had a gambling addiction

Michael Jordan insists he never had a gambling addiction in ESPN’s docuseries The Last Dance, claiming ‘I have a competition problem’

  • Michael Jordan’s history with gambling was laid bare in ESPN docuseries The Last Dance’s sixth episode that aired Sunday night
  • Jordan’s gambling came under the national spotlight in the early 90s after he was placing exorbitant golf bets and spending late nights in Atlantic City
  • In episode Jordan defends himself: ‘I never bet on games. I only bet on myself’ 
  • When asked if he had a gambling issue he said: ‘I have a competition problem’ 

Michael Jordan’s controversial history with gambling was laid bare in the latest episode of The Last Dance where the basketball legend reiterated he was addicted to competition – not placing bets.  

The ESPN docuseries aired its sixth episode on Sunday laying out Jordan’s questionable stints with gambling, but the NBA star insists he ‘didn’t do anything wrong’. 

‘I never bet on games. I only bet on myself, and that was golf. Do I like playing blackjack? Yeah… The League called me and asked questions about it and I told them,’ he said three decades after the controversy in the documentary.

When asked if he had a gambling problem the 57-year-old said: ‘No, because I could stop gambling. I have a competition problem, a competitive problem.’

Michael Jordan’s controversial history with gambling was laid bare in the latest episode of The Last Dance where the basketball legend reiterated he was addicted to competition – not placing bets. ‘I have a competition problem, a competitive problem,’ he said

The episode covered the Bulls 1993 Eastern Conference Finals showdown with the Knicks, the very game where Jordan’s gambling was thrust into the national spotlight.

After the Chicago Bulls lost the first two games in the series to the New York team, it was revealed that Jordan had spent the night in gambling hub Atlantic City the night before Game 2.  

A New York Times report found that Jordan was seen at the casino lobby as late as 2.30am and he appeared tired in the second game. 

Today Jordan says that the scandal was exaggerated and that his trip to Atlantic City didn’t affect his performance in the game at all. 

‘We got a limo, we went and gambled for a couple hours, and we came back. Everybody went totally ballistic. It wasn’t late. We got home by 12:30, 1 o’clock,’ Jordan said. 

Jordan also faced scrutiny for skipping the Bulls’ White House visit after the 1991 NBA Finals after it was revealed he did so to gamble with notorious golf shop owner and convicted cocaine dealer James ‘Slim’ Bouler.  

When Bouler was arrested on drug and money laundering charges, investigators found a $57,000 check addressed to him from Jordan, which was to repay a gambling debt.

In 1993 Richard Esquinas, a self-described recovering gambler, published his book ‘Michael and Me’ which documented his and Jordan’s supposed gambling addictions. 

Esquinas claimed he owed him more than $1.2million from gambling on their golf matches. 

At one point some of the public speculated that Jordan was betting on NBA games – which he shut down.   

‘I enjoy it, it’s a hobby. If I had a problem, I’d be starving. I’d be hawking this watch, my championship rings, I would sell my house. My wife would have left me, or she’d be starving. I do not have a problem, I enjoy gambling,’ he said in a 1993 interview with Ahmad Rashad on the controversy. 

The gambling claims and debt launched an NBA investigation, but Jordan retired in October 1993, before it concluded.

The Last Dance airs on ESPN Sunday nights at 9pm EST.   

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