Michael Jordan is a notorious gambler and golfer.
He also played basketball.
Former NHL star Jeremy Roenick told a story that combines all three of Jordan’s main interests. Roenick played for the Blackhawks while Jordan played for the Bulls. They overlapped seven seasons in Chicago (1988/89-1992/93, 1994/95-1995/96)
Back in the 90s, when the Bulls were on fire, this was like end of the season for us, end of the season for them. I get a call from Michael, “Meet me at Sunset Ridge early. We’re going to go play 18 holes.” We didn’t have a game. We had actually a day off. So, I meet him at Sunset Ridge.
Big ol’ Greg Kunkel, who was one of the best people in golf here in Chicago – I’ve got to mention Greg at Sunset Ridge.
So, we played a round, beat him for a couple thousand, and I’m getting ready to leave. Now, the Bulls are playing that night. They’re playing Cleveland that night. So, I’m thinking he’s leaving. It’s 10 o’clock. He’s like, “No, let’s go play again.” So, he goes and we fill up a bag full of ice and Coors Light, and we walk again. We roll around another 18, and I take him for another couple.
Now, we’ve been drinking all afternoon. Now, he’s going from Sunset Ridge to the stadium to play a game. And I’m messing around. I’m like, “I’m going to call my bookie. All the money that you just lost to me I’m putting on Cleveland tonight.” He goes, “I’ll tell you what.” He goes, “I’ll bet you that we win by 20 points and I have more than 40.” I’m like, “Done.” Son of a gun goes out, scores 52, and they win by 26 or something after… 36 holes of golf and having maybe 10 Bud Lights.
The man, Michael Jordan, to me, is probably the best athlete that I’ve ever seen, that I’ve ever been around and watched play. The way he presented himself and played the game, just amazing.
After the first half, I didn’t even – my money was gone. It was just gone. Done. So much for 36 holes of hard grinding.
This story is told whimsically, but it’s a pretty serious allegation. Roenick said Jordan bet on his own game – a cardinal sin for professional athletes. It takes on even greater significance, because Jordan is still involved in the NBA as owner of the Hornets.
That leads to an important question: Is the story true?
Roenick estimated it occurred in 1992 or 1993. On March 28, 1992, Jordan scored 44 points to lead the Bulls to a 24-point win over Cleveland. However, Roenick played in Hartford that night.
That’s the only game that meets the key parameters – Bulls playing at home in March or April, Jordan scoring at least 40, Chicago winning by at least 20.
So, the story didn’t happen exactly as Roenick told it. But it was decades ago. It’d be reasonable if Roenick misremembered details but still got the crux of the story correct.
The Bulls’ opponent seems like an easy detail to forget. There’s one other March/April home game during Roenick’s and Jordan’s time together in Chicago where Jordan scored at least 40 and the Bulls won by at least 20. On March 7, 1996, Jordan scored 53 in a 21-point win over the Pistons. The Blackhawks were off that day. However, that’s pretty early to be considered the end of the season. The high temperature in Chicago that day was 17 degrees. Would they have really golfed in that weather? Doubtful.
Maybe Roenick misremembered the opponent and the spread. On March 12, 1993, Jordan scored 52 points (the precise number Roenick retold) in the Bulls’ 15-point win over the Hornets. Roenick was on his first of consecutive off days. Again, though, that was early to be considered the end of the season. The high was just 31 degrees – maybe warm enough for a couple golf fiends, though questionable at best. Jordan also played in Miami the night before, another reason to believe he wasn’t on the course early the next morning – though not an assumption that can be taken for granted.
April 16, 1993 checks a lot of boxes. It’s in a year Roenick thought it happened. The Blackhawks’ regular season ended the day prior, and they had a couple off days before the playoffs. Jordan scored 47 points in a 14-point home win over the Bucks. The high temperature was a reasonable 44 degrees. To an East Coaster like Roenick, what’s difference between Cleveland and Milwaukee, anyway? The spread doesn’t match, but no game fits perfectly. If Roenick’s story is true, my money is on this game.
It’s also possible this story is embellished or even fabricated. Roenick probably gets a captive audience every time he tells it. I was certainly intrigued. Jordan might dispute it.
If anyone is inclined to ask him.