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Jordan enjoys a gamble

From the archives: Michael Jordan breaks his media silence to discuss his gambling.

Michael Jordan and Ahmad Rashad play golf in 1999.
Michael Jordan and Ahmad Rashad play golf in 1999.
Robert A. Davis/Sun-Times

Originally published June 10, 1993.

Michael Jordan changed his tune Wednesday from “The Sounds of Silence” to the theme from “You Bet Your Life.”

In his first interview since a self-imposed media boycott began May 26, Jordan told NBC sportscaster Ahmad Rashad that gambling is a hobby for him and not a serious addiction.

After the game, he answered one reporter succinctly as to his why breaking the silence: “Because I feel like talkin’.”

Jordan told Rashad — who played an earnest devil’s advocate despite the plum scoop — he ended his silence in part “so I could enjoy the history we’re about to make winning the third (straight) championship.”

This verbal explosion was on his terms, and clearly aimed at denying any wrongdoing as far as gambling. He broke off normal relations with the media following news revelations that Jordan visited an Atlantic City casino before Game 2 of the Knicks-Bulls series two weeks ago. The interview aired at halftime of Game 1 of the Bulls-Suns NBA Finals series.

“It was a means of relaxing with my family and friends,” Jordan said of the gambling. “It got me ready to play the game. I think the media took it out of context.”

Jordan, in a light gray suit, black sunglasses, white shirt and patterned tie, appeared calm and smiled at one point.

“A lot of people say well, maybe he shouldn’t have done it at that particular time or it was just a bad scenario. Well, no one knows what’s a good and what’s a bad scenario unless you’re the person going through that scenario.”

Last Friday Jordan interrupted his boycott with a five-paragraph statement that disputed claims made by a San Diego entertainment executive that he lost $1.25 million in golf bets. That claim was made in a book.

“For what I have bet, yeah, it’s a little more than I wanted to lose — but I have paid off all my debts,” Jordan said.

“A million dollars, I guess I would be sick if I lost $1.2 million, and he’d be sick if he reduced $1.2 million to $300,000. He exaggerated to a point, and I’ve come to the conclusion (why he did that) — it sells books.

“For a guy who makes over a million dollars, to lose $300,000 is easily acceptable to the public. To say he lost $1.2 million, then the public’s going to look at it and say `one-point-two — boy, maybe he does have a problem.”’

He also added that the coverage was “unfair” because he had done nothing illegal. And in a series of remarks psychologists might find revealing, he argued that gambling was merely a “hobby” and that if he had a problem, someone would tell him.”