Michael Jordan's First Retirement: Was It a Secret Suspension?

Marcel SmithSenior Analyst IMarch 1, 2009

Michael Jordan was one of the greatest players to ever play the game and is considered by many to be the best ever. He was a dominant offensive player who could score as well as anyone and as good as a perimeter defender as there has been.

He was also a winner as he led the Bulls to six championships in the '90s in two different sets of threepeats. 

In the beginning of his career, Jordan was a dominant individual player, but he was overshadowed by the greatness of Magic Johnson and Larry Bird, who were both legends on championships contending teams.

On the other hand, Jordan's Bulls weren't a championship contender until the early '90s (Jordan's 6-7th season) when Scottie Pippen became a great all around player and the majority the great teams in the '80 had declined. 

However, once he had a good enough supporting cast, he completely dominated the league for the majority of the decade and cemented himself as a legend of the game and the best player in the decade.

However, he retired after he led the Bulls to their first three peat for over a year and a half before coming back and leading the team to another three peat.

Why would the face of the league on the best team in the league who was known for his enormous competitive drive and his desire to be the best ever suddenly retire in the middle of his prime? Lets look at the facts. 

In 1992, after winning his second championship, Jordan was called to testify in the criminal trial of James Bouler to explain why why Bouler, a convicted drug dealer, was in possession of a Jordan-signed personal check for $57,000.

First, Jordan claimed it was a business loan, but under oath he admitted that it was a payment for on gambling losses for a single weekend. 

Then, in early 1993, San Diego businessman Richard Equinas revealed in his book Michael and Me: Our Gambling Addiction...My Cry for Help that he had won over $900,000 from Jordan in golf betting.

Around the same time, MJ was spotted in an Atlantic City casino in the early hours on the morning of Game Two of the Eastern Conference Finals. 

After the Bulls won their third championship, the NBA launched an investigation into Jordan's gambling problems to check whether he had violated any league rules. Then, four months later Jordan stunned the world by suddenly retiring from professional basketball.

At the press conference when he was asked if he would ever return he said, " Five years down the road, if the urge comes back, if the Bulls will have me, if David Stern lets me back in the league, I may come back." 

Now why in the world would Jordan ever say if David Stern lets him back, then maybe he would come back when the reporter didn't mention Stern's name at all in his question?

Only days after Jordan announced his retirement, the league dropped its investigation, saying he did nothing wrong (I guess betting numerous amounts on sports isn't wrong then).

Was there a secret agreement between Jordan and Stern where Stern told him to simply retire and create a distraction so that he wouldn't face a suspension and have his huge marketable name stay clean?

The distraction occurred when Jordan then decided to play minor league baseball in the White Sox organization, even though he would've had trouble hitting a beach ball, yet alone a baseball. In 102 games with the Barons, Jordan had a .202 average along with 3 homers, 51 RBI, 30 stolen bases, 114 strikeouts, and a .555 OPS. 

Also, in the much respected book Money Players Days and Nights Inside the New NBA by Armen Keteyian, it states that in 1993, the league had an interview with Richard Equinas during their investigation on Jordan's gambling. He said that in March of 1992, he overheard a telephone conversation Jordan was having with an unknown person.

During the conversation, he heard Jordan talking about a betting line, "So you say the line is seven points." The game MJ was talking about isn't known, but the accusations are extremely serious as that means if Jordan was indeed betting on sports, he was breaking a sacred, unwritten rule for all professional athletes, as that is against the integrity of the game. 

Personally, my opinion on this subject is that Jordan and David Stern had a secret meeting where Stern told Jordan to leave the game for a brief period to save himself, the league's by far most marketable and popular player, embarrassment and scrutiny from a public suspension.

I also think it was done brilliantly by commissioner Stern as today most people don't really know much of this theory as Jordan's reputation is fantastic, even though he was a huge gambler and a questionable teammate and because Jordan came back less than two years late and won three more championships with the Bulls before retiring for a second time. 

The main reason why I believe this theory is because I simply don't believe a player as competitive as Jordan would suddenly retire right at the peak of his career to supposedly play baseball when he knew he wasn't that good and because he said he was too worn out because of the past championship runs and 1992 Olympics. 

MJ was the best player on the best team and he wanted to be the best to ever play the game, so I don't believe he would have retired on his own when he knew if he had played, his Bulls would've had undoubtedly extended their streak of championships to four, unless a major injury had occurred. 

Overall, I am not certain about my opinion that Jordan was actually suspended secretly, instead of retired on his own, but I do think there was a really good chance that this occurred because it doesn't make sense that he retired when he did.

What do you guys think? Do you think he was suspended or not? Also, would your opinion of MJ change if it came out that he was actually suspended instead of retired on his own?