Michael Jordan helped propel Jamal Crawford‘s NBA career – one that has already lasted 16 seasons and resulted in more than $120 million in earnings and three Sixth Man of the Year awards.
Jordan also fostered an environment where Crawford could’ve derailed it.
Crawford was drafted for the Bulls in 2000, when Jordan was contemplating a comeback he’d eventually make with the Wizards. In preparation, Jordan frequently invited Crawford to play pickup basketball with him.
In between Crawford’s first and second year in the league, after the pickup games at Hoops the Gym, many of Jordan’s friends and associates would go next door to his contemporary American restaurant, One Sixtyblue. After hours, games of chance were set up – Vegas-style card tables, a separate corner for shooting dice.
Two participants, on condition of anonymity, recounted one particular night when Jordan and Antoine Walker were among the card players and Crawford and Ray Allen were among the players shooting dice.
Over what is believed to be a two-day span, he said, he lost in the neighborhood of $100,000. A person with intimate knowledge of the game claims Crawford lost several hundred thousand and Allen lost even more. And that, days after the dice game, a call was placed to Goodwin, Crawford’s agent, to inform him that Crawford had not yet squared his debt with one professional gambler.
“OK,” Goodwin said, according to the person with intimate knowledge of the game. “What does he owe? Jamal is good for it.”
“No, you don’t understand,” the go-between said. “If he doesn’t pay now, these guys will kill Jamal.”
“Kill Jamal?!! He’s an NBA player. He gets paid as soon as the season starts. Give me the dude’s number.”
The person with knowledge of the game said Goodwin called the man Crawford owed money, set up a payment plan and resolved the issue without incident.
Crawford swore he didn’t lose that kind of money, and said he never heard the story about his life being threatened. But he doesn’t deny he got in way over his head, which led to a particularly humiliating moment.
The life of an NBA player remains more wild than we’ll ever know.