Did Michael Jordan Get Forced to Retire in 1993?
‘MJ would not give up the bones.’
That’s just one of the many things Pacman Jones would remember about that night in Las Vegas. For Jones, you couldn’t dream of it. There he was, just a month after the completion of his rookie NFL season, at the craps table with his childhood idol during the NBA’s 2007 All-Star Weekend in Vegas.
His royal Airness was adamant that not another living soul at that table were to handle the dice, Jones remembered. Just like on the court – it had to be in Mike’s hands only, All night long – or at least as much of the night that Pacman could remember.
Pac was in awe and merely along for the ride, and what a ride it was.
Jones said he himself collected a cool million in winnings, then headed off to a local strip club, where he would break out fifty thousand in one dollar bills to “make it rain” on the dancers, with rapper Nelly also in participation. That rain would quickly turn sour, developing first into an argument and fight, then a shooting outside the club, and finally a string of lawsuits and media stories that would mar Jones’ image and threaten his pro football career.
That story is for another day. Let’s rewind back two decades.
During the early 1990’s, Michael Jordan turned a corner for sports endorsements. The unbelievable Airness had become a walking multi-million dollar endorsement after his back-to-back-to-back NBA Championships. But after his father James was murdered in a botched roadside robbery in North Carolina in July of 1993, he decided to throw it all in for a chance to make the Major Leagues in Baseball – a dream that Michael and James Jordan shared. Most assumed that his decision to pursue Baseball was due to grief, but a lingering rumor surrounding his 18-month exodus from the league still remains a stain on Jordan’s legacy.
The late Norm Van Lier, a former Chicago Bulls guard and a Windy City radio personality, was the first to be publicly skeptical. He began spruiking a conspiracy theory on air in the wake of Jordan’s retirement. He planted the seed that there was a connection between James Jordan’s roadside robbery-turned murder and Michael’s retirement. It was only when then Bulls coach Phil Jackson phoned him and told him to stop the shit – that there was no connection between MJ’s gambling and his father’s death – that the rumor ceased being broadcast.
But if you give the conspiracy theorists an inch, they’ll take you on a worldwide journey.
It wasn’t long before the public came to believe that Michael was forced off the NBA hardwood by David Stern and co., that James Jordan had been murdered as retaliation for MJ’s unpaid gambling debts, and that his suspension was a beard to protect both Michael and the League’s squeaky-clean image.
In 1992, after winning his second championship, Jordan was called to testify in the criminal trial of James Bouler to explain why Bouler, a convicted drug dealer, was in possession of a Jordan-signed personal check for $57,000.
First, Jordan claimed it was a business loan, but under oath he admitted that it was a payment for on gambling losses for a single weekend. Then, in early 1993, San Diego businessman Richard Equinas revealed in his book Michael and Me: Our Gambling Addiction…My Cry for Help that he had won over $900,000 from Jordan in golf betting.
The trial forced commissioner Stern to issue a reprimand to Jordan. The league soon launched the first of two investigations into Jordan’s gambling activities, although they were limited in scope. And just months after these investigations launched, Mike retired.
This is enough ‘evidence’ for the theorists to make unwarranted connections. To lay claims that this is all just a large-scale coverup by the NBA. And when stories about the attachment Jordan’s hands to the dice that night with Pacman become public, it only adds more fuel to the conspiracy fire.
Jones says that Jordan lost five million dollars that night. Who knows really how much was lost come sunrise, but the occasion happened at a time when MJ was angling to become majority owner of the Charlotte Bobcats.
The conspiracy theories are reasonably entertaining, and they’ve driven lots of Internet traffic for media companies in the past, but for years, all of these theories have overlooked two massive fundamental components: There has never been evidence or even the slightest accusation that Jordan had bet on his own games, or even bet on basketball or any other sporting event, other than his own golf matches; nor was there any evidence to suggest that James Jordan’s murder was a result of unpaid gambling debts, as the overwhelming evidence in court later clearly showed.
To further discredit the theories, when Jordan made a return to basketball in 1995, there was absolutely zero sensitivity about his gambling habits. The Bulls even scheduled a preseason game in Las Vegas in 1996, so that Jordan and his teammates had plenty of time to hit the tables.
If MJ had secretly been suspended for his questionable gambling activities, you would expect the Bulls and NBA would have issued a return subject to strictly regulated rules, with incredible consequences upon breaking any that were set in place.
Somehow, what’s most overlooked facet by the conspiracists is his current position of majority owner of the Charlotte Hornets, the most tangible piece of evidence the quash the rumors.
NBA commissioner David Stern and Jordan had never really been close in his playing days, but to make it happen, Stern would have worked very hard to assist Mike into his role. And once it happened, the commissioner continued to help in the adjustment. More importantly, why would David Stern put the credibility of himself and the NBA in such a position, had the rumors had any ounce of validity.
He wouldn’t. It just proves that the rumors are all a load of Bull.
This article is based of an excerpt of Michael Jordan: The Life by Roland Lazenby.