Michael Jordan denies gambling problem during ‘The Last Dance:’ ‘I have a competition problem”

Getty Images

Michael Jordan sat down with NBC sportscaster Ahmad Rashad just before the 1993 Finals — the interview aired at halftime of Game 1 against the Suns — wearing dark sunglasses to answer questions about the gambling problem he insisted he did not have. It was not Jordan’s smoothest performance.

Social media today would have roasted him.

Jordan’s competitive nature leading to a lot of gambling questions was a central topic of Episode Six of The Last Dance documentary aired on Sunday night. It seemed to open the eyes of younger fans who had no idea what an obsession this had been in 1993 (long before Twitter). Enough of an obsession Jordan felt he needed to address it in the Rashad interview right at the start of the Finals.

There was evidence. There was the $57,000 check written to Slim Bouler that Jordan admitted in court was to cover gambling debts (Jordan skipped meeting President George Bush after the 1991 Finals to golf with Bouler, and Jordan skipped out on the 1992 meeting at the White House, too). There was the book by Richard Esquinas, which said Jordan lost $1.2 million to him on the golf course (although Esquinas came off as a sleaze bag in all this). There were the reports at the time Jordan would bet teammates whose luggage would come down the chute and onto the airport luggage carousel first.

And then there was Jordan being spotting at night in an Atlantic City casino between games one and two of the 1993 Eastern Conference Finals against New York. The Knicks won the first two games of that series (and lost the next four).

In 1993 Jordan said: “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. Everybody went totally ballistic – ‘He was in the casino last night.’ It wasn’t late. We got home by 12:30, one o’clock.”

Which in tone and substance sounded a lot like how modern-day Jordan defended himself in the documentary.

“I’m actually playing golf with people all the time… and if they want to gamble, we gamble. The character of those individuals, I found out later what kind of people I was playing with. I learned that lesson. But the act of gambling? I didn’t do anything wrong…

“I never bet on games; I only bet on myself and that was golf… I told [the NBA league office] exactly what was happening,”

Jordan’s takeaway line was that he did not have a gambling problem.

“I have a competition problem.”

It was enough of a problem that the NBA was paying attention back in 1993, but the late NBA Commissioner David Stern told the filmmakers, “It never reached epic crisis levels in my view.”

However, the Last Dance got into how Jordan would bet on anything — including playing quarters with a security guard in the bowels of The United Center before a game. Jordan lost that bet.

The perception of Jordan’s gambling problem was out there in 1993, enough that when Jordan’s father was murdered later that year — in what police decided was a robbery turned murder — some tried to tie it to unpaid Jordan gambling debts. The same with Jordan jumping to play baseball at that time. Expect those to be topics of future Last Dance episodes.

Roland Lazenby, the author of “Michael Jordan: The Life,” said on a recent PBT Podcast that it all got taken out of context, that the jump to baseball was all about Jordan’s grief for his father and their relationship, it was not about gambling debts or anything else.

Still, those kinds of conspiracy theories never die.

And doing an interview in dark sunglasses denying the issue didn’t help any.






Steven Adams inks two-year, $25.2 million extension with Grizzlies

Getty Photo

Steven Adams signed a two-year, $25.2 million contract extension with Memphis, which will keep him tied to the team through the 2024-25 season. ESPN’s Adrian Wojanrowski broke the news on Saturday.

Adams has been crucial to the Grizzlies’ recent success. He’s coming off his first season with the team, where he averaged career-highs in rebounds (10.0) and assists (3.4). He also helped them lock up the No. 2 spot in the Western Conference and make it to the Conference Semifinals, where they lost to the eventual-champion Warriors 4-2. Despite the improved numbers, a lot of his value is from intangibles that don’t show up in the box score.

Adams spent the first seven years of his career with the Thunder before being traded to New Orleans in the four-team deal that sent Jrue Holiday to Milwaukee. Adams was moved again to Memphis in a package for Jonas Valanciunas.

Adams has found a new home with a young Grizzlies team that is looking to win a championship. The team is built around Ja Morant, Jaren Jackson Jr. and Desmond Bane, but Jackson Jr. is expected to miss time after being diagnosed with a stress fracture in his left foot. Memphis will rely on Adams more than ever to begin the season.

Watch Curry, Klay in 3-point shooting contest in Japan. Yeah, they’re good at this.

NBA Japan Games Saturday Night
Jun Sato/WireImage

The NBA went to Japan to promote the brand, play a few games in a huge market — Japan specifically but Asia as a whole — and put on a show.

Is there a better show than Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson draining 3s? Here they are in a 3-point contest during a basketball exhibition (there were some pro dunkers) in Tokyo on Saturday.

Stephen Curry, was there any other possible outcome?

It’s preseason and they are the defending champs — they should be having fun, playing with some joy.

Thompson took part in the shooting contest but is not playing in either of the exhibition games in Japan as the Warriors ease him back into play this season. It’s a marathon of a season and the Warriors need the best version of Klay starting in April, not October.

Report: Pelicans, Nance agree to two-year, $21.6 million extension


Larry Nance has been a stabilizing influence in New Orleans since coming over mid-season as part of the trade for CJ McCollum. Nance is a versatile player who can play the four or the five, knocks down his threes, is very strong on the glass, can be a disruptive defender in passing lanes, and fits in — and he has the veteran attitude of work this team needs.

So the Pelicans have reached an extension to keep the 29-year-old around for two years past this coming season, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

This is a signing that should make Pelicans fans happy. Importantly, it makes CJ McCollum happy — they are tight and this is something McCollum wanted to see. The money on this deal seems fair, about the league average for a solid rotation player.

Nance is the kind of veteran this team needs considering its young core of Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram (just turned 25), Herb Jones, and guys like Trey Murphy III, Jose Alvarado, and others. Nance compared it to the young Lakers teams he was on, but noted that team lacked the same level of veteran leadership this Pelicans team has.

We may see more Nance at the five lineups — small ball with Zion at the four — to close games this season in New Orleans, that could be their best lineup because Nance can defend but also spaces the floor for Zion on offense. Coach Willie Green has a lot of different players and matchups to experiment with.

And now he has the stability of Nance for a few more years.

Durant tired of talking Nets dramatic offseason: ‘I didn’t miss any games’


No team had an offseason quite like the Brooklyn Nets. First, they would not give a long-term extension to Kyrie Irving, which sent the star guard looking for a new team (but there were no offers that worked for everyone, so he opted in with Brooklyn). Then Kevin Durant asked for a trade, and to gain a little leverage reportedly threw down an ultimatum of him or the coach and GM. No trade could be found — how much the Nets wanted one is up for debate — so he is back in Brooklyn. And all that is not even getting into the return of Ben Simmons, a trade for Royce O’Neal, or anything else.

The Nets drama and how they move past it has been the talk of training camp. The only talk at training camp, it feels like.

When asked Friday if there were any inaccuracies in the reporting of the Nets summer he would like to clear up, Durant sounded weary of rehashing the summer.

The only thing that will start to move the conversation in a new direction is the Nets playing and winning games (they open the preseason Monday against the 76ers). And even those wins will have the shadow of the offseason cast over them. Durant and Irving made this bed.

Part of the fascination is the Nets remain the team hardest to predict in the league. They arguably have the most talented roster in the league and, if everything comes together just right, they can contend for a title. It’s also possible the wheels fall off early and by Christmas the Nets are looking to trade Durant again. Both things feel possible (even if reality most likely lands somewhere in the middle).

That uncertainty about the Nets’ future is the drama that will keep eyeballs on them — which also means more questions about this past offseason. Durant can choose not to answer them, but the questions aren’t going away.