Michael Jordan spent decades defeating the odds on the basketball court. With grace and style, his iconic moves and awe-inspiring hoops transcend the imagination. Off the court, his confidence and persistence translate to another love of his life, gambling. From marathon poker to off-the-cuff games of 21, gambling seems to be as consistent and present in MJ’s life as sports. Perhaps, it’s the drive to win that moves Jordan. In gambling, MJ can continue to dominate the competition. Check out a few of the most outlandish stories about Jordan’s gambling over the years.
Long before NBA teams chartered planes, Jordan pulled a fast one in a Portland baggage claim area. He took out a hundred bucks, offering to wager his teammates that his bags would be the first to emerge on the conveyor belt. Nine players gladly accepted the bet. MJ’s bags came first. He laughed heartily while collecting everyone’s money. The poor suckers didn’t know that Jordan bribed the baggage handler in advance. The easy score mimics Jordan’s life. Winning for MJ is a result of calculated preparation.
According to long-time friends, Jordan will gamble on almost anything, including Monopoly. A former friend wrote a self-published tell-all about how Jordan lost $1.2 million to him while betting on games of golf. Decades ago, Richard Esquinas alleged that ten days of golf led to the enormous debt that Jordan refused to pay in full. Jordan admitted to the wager, but called the amount Esquinas reported “preposterous.” MJ reportedly settled the debt for $300,000.
It’s not the first time gambling has encroached upon Jordan’s otherwise pristine image. He’s known for playing high-stakes poker, and talking trash while doing it. It’s all in fun, a part of the bravado that defines his fiercely competitive style. Michael Leahy’s book describes how MJ fell behind by a half a million in a late-night poker game before winning some money back. Always moving forward, Jordan grasps for the win, even while looking at almost certain defeat. It’s the trait that defines champions.
On the court and off, MJ got the job done. Some think gambling is unsavory. To Jordan, it’s a competition where he exudes persistence and tenacity in the face of almost certain defeat. These are traits that define champions. This winning spirit is one reason that Jordan’s brand is still immensely popular.