Courtside stories: Did NBA force Jordan to leave after gambling issues?

jordan-vs-kerr-later-yearsBy Moon Lee

A lot was speculated, a lot was said and written about Michael Jordan’s retirement from professional basketball in 1993, after winning three straight NBA championships.

In the early 90’s, when Jordan was already a star, one of his desires – gambling became known to the wide public. The image of a “perfect superstar athlete” was shattered, and it took some time for Jordan to correct it.

In 1993, after defeating the Phoenix Suns in the NBA finals, and winning the NBA championship, Jordan was soon forced to deal with a tragedy, as his father was killed. Following the tremendous pressure, Jordan took a “timeout”, that was interpreted differently by the media.

Many years later, Jordan’s former teammate, ex-guard Steve Kerr recalls one of the rumors that he has heard on the issue, and it was the most unbelievable thing for him.

“I still have people come up to me today and say ‘Don’t you think Michael was forced to leave basketball by David Stern because of the gambling issue’,” Kerr recalled in an ESPN 30 for 30 documentary.

“It is the stupidest thing I ever heard in my life,” Kerr said. “It makes zero sense because Michael was the golden goose.”

Michael Jordan, at the time, was the player that every basketball fan wanted to see. Some fans would come to see him win, others would come to see him lose. But they would “come” – meaning they’d buy tickets, watch him on TV, and so on.

“It was really strange because the void was so glaring, and you could feel it in the crowd, you could feel it with the announcers, the media, the coaching staff,” Kerr said.

“It was just a huge void that nobody could fill, and yet we were collectively trying to fill it,” he said.

Steve Kerr does have a point – it would have been illogical for the NBA to be pushing Jordan towards retirement – which would mean a lot of loss in revenues and decrease in fan attendance at games, etc.

Many have said that the NBA officials have done the opposite, urging Jordan to stay. He didn’t however. He went on to try himself on the baseball field, then he came back and won three more championships.

After all – Jordan’s competitiveness was a much bigger problem for him (and people around him), than his gambling desires. However it was exactly his competitive spirit that helped him to become arguably the best player in NBA history.

Jordan played in total 1072 NBA games (1039 started), averaging 30.1 ppg, 6.2 rpg in 38.3 minutes per contest. He was a 14-time NBA All-Star, and 6-times the NBA champion with the Chicago Bulls. Many of Jordan’s contemporaries label Jordan as the greatest basketball player of all time.

Kerr helped Jordan and the Chicago Bulls win the NBA championships in 1996, 1997 and 1998. Kerr would go on to win two more NBA titles with San Antonio Spurs (1999, 2003).

This post is part of EXNBA’s “Courtside Stories” series. Check out our other series below:
How adopted kids helped ex-NBA center to play in playoffs
1992 New Jersey Nets and Cleveland Cavs set records
Pippen, Grant never believed Bulls could win 70 games
Tracy McGrady recalls moment when his NBA career was over


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