Originally published Oct. 23, 1992.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Bulls star Michael Jordan had his day in court Thursday, and it lasted nine minutes.
On the witness stand, Jordan admitted he gave James “Slim” Bouler a cashier’s check for $57,000 to cover gambling losses from a weekend of high-stakes golf and poker last year in Hilton Head, S.C.
Bouler, 41, is on trial in federal court on drug and money-laundering charges.
A jury, which is expected to receive the case today after closing arguments, will consider whether Bouler, if guilty, should forfeit the $57,000 from Jordan.
Jordan is not under federal investigation and has not been tied to any drug activity.
Wearing an olive suit, white shirt and yellow-and-black tie, Jordan appeared at the courthouse as a limousine circled the front of the building to draw media away from the entrance. Accompanied by a three-man entourage, including his father James, Jordan was whisked into a room adjoining the courtroom.
Defense attorney James Wyatt, leaning back in his chair with his right leg resting on his left knee, began questioning Jordan by joking the Bulls’ star need not list his accomplishments.
Wyatt: “Are you the guy on the Wheaties box?”
Jordan answered, “Yes.”
Jordan spoke clearly and softly, sometimes trailing off at the end of sentences, as he answered questions regarding his relationship with Bouler and the $57,000.
Jordan said he has known Bouler for four years and golfed with him eight to 10 times during that period. He said all the meetings were arranged through a third party. The two wagered from $20 to $1,000 a hole on golf.
When Wyatt asked what the $57,000 was for, Jordan answered: “For what I lost gambling on golf and later in poker when he loaned me some money. I didn’t have any money.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Frank Whitney asked Jordan why he originally described the $57,000 as a loan to Bouler for a golf range.
“It was not represented as a loan at all,” Jordan said. “It was my immediate reaction to the media after a game to save embarrassment and pain ... and the connection to gambling.”
Bouler, who broke down in tears while testifying earlier in the day, sat passively as Jordan testified.
“I said what I had to say,” Jordan told reporters outside the courtroom.
“Did you tell the truth?” someone yelled.
“Oh, yeah,” Jordan said.
Jordan’s father said his son has nothing to be embarrassed about.
“Michael is human, just like everybody else,” James Jordan said. “What he did in private is not anything to be ashamed of. People are going to make of it what they want to.
“But what people must realize is that he’s just like every other guy that walks the street. There was only one perfect person that I ever heard talked about, and that’s God. Michael is not God.”
Jordan’s availability for this weekend’s pre-season games in Albuquerque, N.M., and Denver is still uncertain. He said earlier in the week he would not make the trip.
“I will talk to him and see how he feels mentally and physically,” Bulls coach Phil Jackson said Thursday. “Then we will go from there.