If you believe the conspiracy theorists out there, Michael Jordan’s 17-month retirement from the NBA in 1993-94 was actually a league imposed suspension for gambling. Of course, that’s never been proven, but it doesn’t stop people from believing it.
Jordan definitely has a history of compulsive gambling, with many memorable anecdotes. He was seen in an Atlantic City casino the night before his Bulls played the Knicks, and he had admitted to losing almost $60k in a single year. Jordan once told 60 Minutes that his gambling habits were borderline compulsive:
“Yeah, I’ve gotten myself into situations where I would not walk away and I’ve pushed the envelope. Is that compulsive? Yeah, it depends on how you look at it. If you’re willing to jeopardize your livelihood and your family, then yeah.”
Another NBA star from Jordan’s era who loves to gamble is Charles Barkley, and Sir Charles has been very open about his struggles with casinos. But he also loves to bet on the golf course (a bad idea, for those of you who have seen Barkley’s golf swing). On a recent edition of the Dan Patrick Show, Barkley talked about playing golf with MJ and being in awe of the figures being thrown around.
“Oh, I used to play him all the time [for money],” Barkley said. “Why would you play golf if you don’t play it for money?”
“I tell you what, I’ve never been under more pressure — and I apologize to Michael for saying this — so we’d be playing golf with certain people, and we’d be playing for a couple hundred dollars a hole, nothing crazy. And he’d be playing some guy for $100,000. And he’s like, ‘Charles, pick that up.’ And I’m like, ‘This putt is for $200.’ He’d be like, ‘Pick that up Charles, get out of my way. You’re in my line.’ I’d say, ‘How much is that putt worth?’ And he’d say, ‘300,000.’ I said, ‘let me get out of your line.’ It was crazy man. They were playing for like hundreds of thousands of dollars, it was crazy.”
Barkley may have kept the stakes low on the golf course, but admits that his real problem with in casinos, where he’s gone bust numerous times.
“I think, I developed that problem a few years ago,” said Barkley. “When I went to Vegas I won a million dollars. I probably won a million dollars five times, and I probably lost a million 25 times. So I developed this thing where I had to win a million. So I quit gambling for like two years, and I was talking to my close friends and I said, ‘Man, I sure miss gambling.’ And they said, well you should gamble, you just shouldn’t be an idiot.
“My friends have carte blanche to tell me honestly….My friend says, ‘Dude, you’re just an idiot when you gamble. You’ll be up like $600,000 and we’re like, Charles quit let’s go have fun, and you’ll say, naw I need to get to a million. And then you lose that 600 and you lose your credit. So now when I go gamble I just go to have fun.”