Ask anyone to name the top basketball player of all time, and there’s a good chance they’ll say Michael Jordan, or ‘MJ’. After all, Michael Jeffrey Jordan, has been so much more than just a basketball player – he’s an entertainer and brand in his own right.
On the court, he won five Most Valuable Player (MVP) Awards, achieved ten All-NBA First Team designations, nine All-Defensive First Team honours, fourteen NBA All-Start Game appearances, three All-Star MVP Awards, ten scoring titles, three steals titles, six NBA Finals MVP Awards, and the 1988 NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award. Jordan also holds NBA records for the highest career regular season scoring average, and highest career playoff scoring average. He’s also been named the greatest North American athlete of the 20th century by ESP. He’s also the main owner and chairman of the Charlotte Hornets, has become the first billionaire in NBA history, and is the third richest African American – not too bad, you could say!
So, what else does Jordan have a passion for? It turns out, as with so many other sports stars and celebrities, Michael Jordan is a big poker player, and he has some crazy gaming tales to tell! Take, for example, the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. Jordan was on the US national team, who were playing hard – but not only at basketball, because apparently, Jordan and his team mates Magic Johnson, Scottie Pippen and Charles Barkley were also playing poker until the early hours of most days – including until 6am on at least one game day.
As Magic told TWIRI Sports: “We go on and play for another two hours – so it’s 6 o’clock, the light is coming up. So we stop the game – Michael Jordan has an 8 o’clock tee time. He goes, gets an hour of sleep, gets up, makes the 8 o’clock tee time. 18 holes of golf, comes back and eats, goes out and scores 20 points in the first half of our game.” Considering that most of us mere mortals find it difficult to even stay awake at a desk, if we’ve had a big night, it’s super impressive that Jordan and his team mates still managed to take gold, beating Croatia 117 to 85, in the Olympic final!
According to friends of Jordan, it’s not just poker that he likes to bet on. Whilst waiting for their luggage at Portland airport, Jordan is said to have bet his team mates that his bags would come out first – a $100 bet which they accepted at 9:1. Presently, whose bags should come trundling along the conveyer first? Jordan’s of course! Though there are rumours that he’d actually paid a baggage handler to ensure this victory. Cheeky, we’d say Michael, very cheeky.
But, sometimes things haven’t gone quite according to plan for Jordan. During the 1993 NBA Playoffs, Jordan found himself playing blackjack at Bally’s Casino, Atlantic City, until 2.30am – on the day of an important game. A game which Jordan’s team lost. Was it a gamble too far? Of course not – it seems Jordan always lands on his feet, because they won every game afterwards, thus he redeemed himself in style!
Things just get wilder though. Take, for example, the 2007 NBA All-Star Weekend in Las Vegas. Jordan was, according to Cincinnati Bengals cornerback Adam “Pacman” Jones, playing craps all night, and lost a staggering $5 million. Meanwhile, Jones, had reportedly won $1 million at the same game, ended up taking $50k and some pals to a strip club. Unfortunately, things went south very quickly, with a fight and shooting ensuing, that saw Jones suspended for the rest of the year. Maybe it was just as well that Jordan stayed at the craps table, losing as he may have been, because who know what may have happened if he’d gone with Jones and ended up in the firing line! $5 million may have been a small price to pay – and it certainly didn’t do Jordan’s finances much damage in the long-run anyway.
And, let’s not forget the time that Jordan famously racked up a $1.25 million debt, during one ten-day gold tournament! Former San Diego Sports Arena manager Richard Esquinas, even wrote a book inspired by the game. Apparently, Jordan, not wanting his wife to find out, was pretty slow paying the debt, and it was eventually lowered to $300k – but it’s still a pretty big hit to take!
Michael Jordan obviously loves his gambling and, we guess, when you’re an insanely talented, incredibly smart billionaire, you can afford to get away with a few crazy wagers! Whilst we doubt his mother would approve of some of his antics, it just goes to show that, sometimes the ‘less than sensible’ approach to life can really pay dividends!