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Maybe Jordan was not suspended from basketball for gambling, maybe he just liked baseball

Aug 24, 2010, 11:04 AM EDT

NBA_jordan.jpgMichael Jordan went to play baseball as a quiet suspension for his gambling activities. It’s an accepted truth in America, right up there with the man on the grassy knoll and the aliens at Area 51.

Except that maybe it’s not true. None of it. Especially the MJ part.

Tuesday night the latest in ESPN’s fantastic “30 for 30” series continues with “Jordan Rides the Bus” about MJ’s time — at the peak of his basketball career — that he left to play minor league baseball.

The rumors have been for years that Jordan walked only because David Stern was punishing him for his gambling ties. But Ron Shelton — the director of the new documentary — said he looked into it, and told the Chicago Tribune there was no truth to it.

“I probably, like most people in America, thought he left the NBA for a year because of gambling,” Shelton told us Monday. “After researching the project, I was utterly convinced that was nonsense. And probably like most people, I thought he was a catastrophically bad baseball player. And after researching it, I got a different view about that, as well….”

“Everybody that I talked to said they spent hundreds of hours looking for smoking guns and there is not even a leak; it’s just circumstantial. It’s just a theory,” he said.

Jordan is a personality that needs a challenge in front of him. After a three-peat with the Bulls, was the NBA still a challenge? Throw in that Jordan’s father, a huge baseball fan, had just been murdered and you start to see more logical pieces fall together. Jordan had the emotional ties to baseball, something rekindled by his father’s death, and he needed a new challenge.

But that’s no fun. It’s more logical that there was some grand conspiracy that was covered up. That the CIA moved and switched JFK’s body, but nobody ever talked in an era when we know all the cold war secrets of that era. That the same government incapable of tripping over its own feet can keep an alien spacecraft and the bodies of extra-terrestrials secret in the desert for 50 years.

Maybe Jordan just wanted to play baseball. Why is that so hard to believe?

  1. Steve - Aug 24, 2010 at 3:54 PM

    This is hogwash! MJ was punished by Stern b/c of his gambling, but since MJ was such an NBA cash cow it was imperative that his gambling be hushed up. He was in debt hundreds of thousands of dollars to a golf hustler in southern Cal, he was further in debt to thugs in North Carolina due to playing highstakes card games. While playing on the Dream Team in 1992 Magic commented that MJ barely practiced with the team, instead he was constantly too busy shuttling from one gambling obligation to another.
    When new Bulls would join the team they were warned never to play poker with him b/c he was a cold blooded assasin who’d win all their money.

  2. Billy Bob - Aug 24, 2010 at 4:13 PM

    Who care’s Steve, u act like u were there, and the fact is, Michael Jordan doesn’t even know u exist. It’s funny how fans think they know celebrities business and get all in a huff over someone else’s life. Mind your on business u

  3. Drew - Aug 24, 2010 at 4:24 PM

    So one man saying he was “utterly convinced” is supposed to make us believe it? I’m with Steve on this one. This article seems like a bad attempt at damage control. MJ’s father was murdered for Michael’s unsettled debt. He was told to walk away for a while until the dust settled.
    “Find something to do for a year or two, Michael. It’s too risky for the league right now. Go play baseball and we’ll re-evaluate the situation after that.”
    No one leaves at the peak of their career on a perennial contender to play minor league baseball.

  4. bill - Aug 24, 2010 at 4:24 PM

    Unless this “steve” is steve kerr(or another high ranking NBA official named Steve), i am going to believe the claims of good reporting by Ron Shelton. I am sure the hundred of thousands of dollars he lost to a golf hustler was a big burden on his 8-figure income. Jordan himself admitted he was a gambler but never gambled so much he put his livelihood at stake.
    and who cares if he was gambling? Jordan is the last person I would EVER suspect to bet on basketball, which would be the only thing the NBA, and its fans, should care about. If he wants to play a million dollar golf game, let him. He earned the money.

  5. jeff - Aug 24, 2010 at 4:30 PM

    jordan sr was murdered by 2 teenagers who then stole his car and used his cell phone to make numerous calls. I dont know about you, but that doesnt sound like the work of a hitman hired to collect gambling debts from one of the most influential and richest people on the planet at the time.

  6. Drew - Aug 24, 2010 at 4:51 PM

    Jeff, there’s always a way to make things look different than they are. Criminal elite or the mafia don’t care if you’re rich and famous if you owe them something or if there is a lot for them to lose. Maybe you should re-read your Princess Diana and JFK history. Pretty rich and influential people, wouldn’t you say? As the mafia says, it’s nothing personal, just business.

  7. Drew - Aug 24, 2010 at 4:59 PM

    Bill, you’re making an assumption that Ron Shelton is a “good reporter.” First of all, he’s a director of a documentary, not a reporter. Second of all, he may or may not be a good one but what exactly are you basing your comment on that he’s “good”? Because he said he looked into it? Two paragraphs from Shelton are no more proof than Steve’s comments.
    Of course, Jordan is not going to spill everything publicly. It’s called damage control. “Yes, it’s true, I gambled to the point of risking my life with really bad people.” You expect him to utter those words? I think there’s more than meets the eye than Jordan losing a few hundred thousand dollars in a golf game. I love MJ and I don’t hold any judgement of him for gambling, but I personally don’t buy this whitewashing.

  8. yo yo ma - Aug 24, 2010 at 5:05 PM

    Steve, if Jordan made $25m per season from the Bulls, he earned at least that in endorsements. So he was earning $50m per year.
    Is it really possible to be in debt for hundreds of thousands of dollars if you earn millions???

  9. pjmjfan - Aug 24, 2010 at 5:06 PM

    I’m with Jeff on this one. These rambling baffoons are the same knuckleheads who swear our every step & breath is watched and accounted for by some secret federal government group with omniscient monitoring capabilities. Please guys. MJ was on top of the world and could do anything he wanted at a time in his life when dramatic change seemed welcoming and exciting. Seems pretty logical to me.

  10. joshpico - Aug 24, 2010 at 5:19 PM

    You guys are all idiots. None of us know Michael Jordan’s business, nor should we be speculating or for that matter even care. Leave the man and his family alone and go live your own lives. Maybe then you’ll make something of your pathetic existences.

  11. Jack - Aug 24, 2010 at 5:29 PM

    What proof do you have of this? Enlighten us with more than just your armchair hunch please.

  12. Steve - Aug 24, 2010 at 5:48 PM

    Check out the book “The Fix is In”. It’s quite credible and has the ring of truth. No arm chair hunch here.

  13. Harry Ball - Aug 24, 2010 at 6:22 PM

    Steve said it. Must be true, lol.

  14. Terry - Aug 24, 2010 at 7:52 PM

    Steve is a a moron of the highest order

  15. Drew - Aug 24, 2010 at 8:08 PM

    pjmjfan, what you’re using is a classic strawman technique, just as the author of this article is. That is, to believe some sort of foul play was afoot is equated to believing in little green aliens and gov’t conspiracies. By associating an argument in question with some irrational, conspiratorial hyperbole, it aims to destroy the messenger without really having to address the message.
    What do we know for certain?
    1. Jordan had/has an admitted gambling problem, including owing sizeable amounts of money to more than one person.
    2. Jordan admitted under oath that he paid money to a notorious drug dealer for gambling debts after originally claiming it was a business loan.
    3. A man with tremendous competitive drive at the peak of his career on championship calibre teams suddenly quits and decides to play and have a sub-par career in minor league baseball. Who does that!?
    4. In Jordan’s first retirement press conference, he states “If David Stern will let me back.” Why would David Stern have to let him back if it was Jordan’s own volition to leave? Shouldn’t it be the Bulls who decide that?
    5. At the height of Jordan’s public gambling problem, his father is murdered (allegedly by pure coincidence from some thug teenagers).
    I don’t know about you, but it doesn’t take a genius to piece this together. We know of smaller debts, i.e. $900,000 lost in a golf game, but what about bets we don’t know about? I know people want to keep Michael’s legacy in tact and I hold nothing against the guy, but I just don’t believe he freely decided to leave and become a bad baseball player in a minor league when he’s the consensus best player in the world completing a three-peat.

  16. anonymous - Aug 25, 2010 at 1:26 AM

    Jordan quit the NBA because the Mafia said so. He was told by the Mafia to give the championship to Phoenix or else someone will die. He did not oblige, he played well and they won and then his Dad was murdered…
    I think the Mafia has a very high bet on Phoenix at that time and they lost, they told MJ to back-off from Bball so that they could regain the money that they lost or else somebody is gonna die again…
    I don’t believe that it’s due to debt that his father was murdered because he’s earning millions through endorsements and salary…

  17. Clay - Aug 26, 2010 at 5:35 PM

    Charles Barkley has lost openly admitted to losing hundreds of thousands in one weekend, yet no one his family has been killed nor has the NBA asked him to stay away from the game.
    Are we really going to pretend that Sir Charles was raking in more money than Jordan?
    This is from a December, 1991 HOOP article:
    “In his first full season under the Nike logo, the Air Jordan line produced more than $153 million in revenue. McDonald’s quickly got on board and Coca-Cola followed, along with Chicagoland Chevrolet dealers, General Mills (Wheaties), Wilson, Ohio Arts (toy company), Sara Lee (Hanes underwear), the Illinois State Lottery and others. In addition, Jordan now has personalized bubble gum, watches, formal wear, sleeping bags, greeting cards and calendars.
    The idea that Jordan was driven away from the game because of debt/gambling problems is ridiculous. Jordan gambled away millions because he could afford it. David Falk turned him into a marketing enterprise and a money printing machine. Jordan had so much “F-you” money he could have hired the mob to whack 23 golf hustlers and the general public would’ve never known about it.

  18. Cedarrider - Aug 27, 2010 at 12:42 AM

    You’re an ignorant moron!!!!

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