Unfair Jordan: Gambling Stories From The G.O.A.T. Never Get Old

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NBA Hall of Famer Scottie Pippen recently said in a radio interview that former teammate Michael Jordan was known to stack the deck in his own favor when it came to side bets with his friends.

One well-known example involves Jordan asking Bulls operations members to divulge the winner of the nightly animated bull race. Knowing the winner beforehand, Jordan would casually make friendly $100 bets with teammates during the game’s timeout. Like Biff Tannen holding the sports almanac, Jordan would presumably never lose.

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And that’s the dream, right? Concocting a ruse that will never lose. I don’t know about you, but there’s literally no Jordan gambling story that I wouldn’t be interested in hearing. Nor is there a Jordan gambling story that I wouldn’t believe.

You could tell me that Jordan and Kukoč were at the reindeer track and MJ had a guy in Santa’s workshop with inside information, and I’d say, yep, the elves probably were Bulls fans back in the 90s. Bill Simmons dubbed this kind of blind faith the Tyson Zone, a place where nothing surprises you anymore, so we can call this the Jordan Zone. If the story involves MJ, a competition, a wager, or a scheme, I’m believing it first and asking questions later.

Considering the majority of Jordan’s antics happened before camera phones, and considering his well-documented love of gambling, you just have to assume that so many more great stories exist but will never see the light of day. Not only was he a physical specimen and a ruthless competitor, but he was one of the smartest basketball players in the game, knowing exactly how to attack opponent weaknesses and make them strengths for himself.

Oftentimes that sort of chess mentality gets misinterpreted as slippery—which may explain some of the “cheating” lore that surrounds old Jordan gambling stories—but aren’t the geniuses always a little misunderstood?

(Photo by Isaac Brekken/Getty Images for Michael Jordan Celebrity Invitational)

Take Jordan’s new golf course, the ultra-exclusive Grove XXIII, for example. According to PGA player Rickie Fowler, Jordan designed the course to reward his own exact ball flight. That is to say, every shot lines up with Jordan’s distances and club selections.

If a professional golfer, who can presumably hit farther off the tee than Jordan, wants to score well, he either has to rein in his drives or risk hazards that are by-and-large out of reach for Jordan. And since Jordan is a master hustler, of course he is going to be getting strokes against a pro in a money game. Therefore to beat him, you have to play his game but better, while hoping Jordan plays his own game but blows up on a hole or two.

That’s some diabolical sh*t right there, and I absolutely love it. Jordan erected a shrine to his own golf game and then mentally assaults the toughest players in the world while taking their money. Kids, let that be a lesson to you: being the G.O.A.T. isn’t all about skill; sometimes it’s just about finding a way to win. No matter how much money Jordan has won or lost gambling in his life, I guarantee every time he has found a way to win it back, either by sport, clout, or legend. That’s some big-time ballin’ right there. That’s the Jordan Zone.

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Follow me on Twitter @outkicktommy.

Written by TK Sanders


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