Michael Jordan on Gambling Hobby: 'I Have a Competition Problem'

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistMay 4, 2020

Former basketball superstar Michael Jordan speaks during a press conference ahead of NBA basketball game between Charlotte Hornets and Milwaukee Bucks in Paris, Friday, Jan. 24, 2020. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus))
Thibault Camus)/Associated Press

Michael Jordan's love of gambling—whether it's at a high-rollers blackjack table or for five bucks with arena workers—was extensively covered in Sunday's installments of The Last Dance.

Jordan denied he was addicted to gambling or that it impacted his play on the court.

“I can stop gambling,” Jordan said in a 1993 interview with Connie Chung that was featured in the documentary. “I have a competition problem, a competitive problem.”

In another 1993 interview with Ahmad Rashad, Jordan described his gambling as a "hobby."

"I enjoy it, it's a hobby," Jordan said. "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."

While gambling is a widespread, accepted part of modern culture, it was still seen as somewhat taboo in the early 1990s. Jordan never made his love of casinos and gambling on golf matches a secret, and his habit made national headlines when he and his father traveled to Atlantic City the night before Game 2 of the 1993 Eastern Conference Finals.

"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," Jordan said in an interview for the documentary, recalling that night. "Everybody went totally ballistic'He was in the casino last night.' It wasn't late. We got home by 12:30, one o'clock."

Regarding golf, Jordan wrote a $57,000 check to golf hustler Slim Bouler, per Dylan Dethier of Golf.com. "'It was what I lost gambling,' Jordan reportedly said in court. 'It was never a loan. I said it was a loan strictly to avoid embarrassment and pain.'"

Dethier noted that "Bouler was a golf hustler who was eventually convicted on charges pertaining to money laundering, though he was let off on more serious drug conspiracy offenses. When Bouler was being investigated for cocaine trafficking, authorities found a check for $57,000 from Jordan at Bouler’s home. Jordan initially called the money a loan, but wound up testifying differently at his trial."

Director Jason Hehir said Jordan was "eager" to discuss the gambling issue and set the record straight from his side. 

"He's not gambling at this stage of his life—nor do I believe he was gambling at any stage of his life—for financial gain," Hehir said on the Jalen & Jacoby aftershow. "He's gambling because he loves games. Loves it."

Jordan also denied any allegations of wrongdoing with his gambling, saying he never bet on NBA games during his career.