As the general public, when we think of Michael Jordan, we think of dunks, success, redemption, luxury and affluence. What we don’t think of is debt, but is there more than what meets the eye? According to Richard Esquinas, Michael Jordan still has gambling debts and owes him as much as $100,000 from back in 1993.
It is public knowledge that Michael Jordan dabbled in things that were not basketball, such as golf and baseball, but what a lot of us don’t know is that he also enjoyed getting his bet on, maybe a little too much. Michael was never known to be a responsible gambler, but the latest allegations against him may suggest the problem could have been way worse than initially thought.
A brief history of MJ’s gambling tendencies
Is there any truth to Richard Esquinas’ claims? Maybe a look into the past can help us be the better judge. One thing that is for certain is that Michael has always been ultra-competitive, be it on the court or off. The new Netflix documentary about his life and career called ‘The Last Dance’ really drives that point home.
It also pulls behind the veil ever so slightly on Michael’s gambling habits, but does not really talk about when and how Michael’s gambling started. It turns out that Michael was placing bets back in his high school days (albeit these bets were humble compared to his later exploits). There are reports that suggest Michael had placed a bet with his high school prom date.
His gambling habits only surfaced to the public eye after his fame and success in the NBA. However, it is recorded that Michael would play cards with his teammates and even journalists right from the days of his rookie season. For someone that was making over $550,000 a season in 1984, some card playing was shrugged off as no big deal.
Enter Richard Esquinas
Esquinas was one of the investors in the Sports Arena in San Diego. This was the venue for an NBA exhibitions game that took place in 1989. A reception held after the game is where Esquinas crossed paths with Michael Jordan. As the story goes, they got to talking and discovered they had a couple of things in common, namely, golf and gambling.
Their first meeting led to a game of golf between the two the very next day and the game isn’t the only thing Michael won. For the pair, this was the beginning of years of golfing and gambling together and against each other. Supposedly, the two played over 100 rounds of golf. They would generally play 36 holes and their standard bet was $1,000 per hole.
Esquinas claims that at one point, he owed MJ as much as $98,000 but it was overturned by a double or nothing bet. They were all square at this point, but instead of calling it a truce, the duo continued their gambling games and it soon spiraled out of control. In his book, ‘Michael and Me: Our Gambling Addiction…My Cry for Help’, Esquinas details that Jordan owed him a whopping $902,000 at one point.
However, Esquinas never mentioned in the book something which he later agreed to in public, the fact that he had agreed to lower the amount owed and round it off to $300,000. He also said that MJ made payments and settled $200,000 but still owes Esquinas $100,000 as things stand today.
The Olympics of 1992 and after
Esquinas’ book caused some concern amongst fans, but not enough to diminish Jordan’s lust for gambling. In 1992, along with other members of one of the greatest ever NBA teams “The Dream Team”, Michael made his way to the Olympics in Barcelona. The Olympics and basketball weren’t the only things on his mind. Michael also paid a visit to the casinos in Monte Carlo and called for card games with his team mates late into the nights.
So, is Michael Jordan burdened by gambling debt? We may never know the true extent and magnitude of Michael’s gambling problem and losses. What we do know is that with a net worth of $1.6 billion, he is not just the richest basketball player, but the richest athlete in the world. The fact is that he can afford to lose a few millions to gambling and is certainly aware of his fortunate position when he indulges in carefree gambling.
So, why wouldn’t he pay off a meagre $100,000 to settle things once and for all with Esquinas? Well, Michael disagrees that he owes Esquinas anything. Apparently, since Esquinas published the book, it resulted in their gambling records being wiped clean, with Michael not owing Esquinas a single penny.
Esquinas has a different take on it though. He claims that if Michael paid Esquinas the last $100,000 it would mean that he lost, and Michael does not like to lose at any cost. This is why he never cut him a cheque and blamed it on the book being published instead.
What do you think of Michael and Esquinas’ off the record gambling agreements? Was Michael right in calling off the agreement or should he be a man of his word and pay up?