In a June 1998 Fortune story titled, "The Jordan Effect," a team of financial writers estimated that NBA superstar Michael Jordan was responsible for having an economic impact of at least $10 billion.
"During his time in the NBA, Jordan has parlayed his breathtaking skills and overwhelming cross-cultural appeal into an industry, and he's done it more effectively than any sportsman before him," wrote Fortune editor Roy S. Johnson. "The man has his own line of underwear, for heaven's sake."
It would seem that anyone on his way to generating $10 billion for various fast food chains, shoe companies, soda bottlers and movie studios could afford to make a friendly wager on the golf course now and then. But for Michael Jordan, whose moneymaking ability depended almost as much on a vice-free image as it did on athletic prowess (Gatorade had built a campaign around "Be Like Mike," after all) there was more at risk than mere dollars and cents.
The risks began to catch up with him in late 1992, not long after his Chicago Bulls won their second NBA Championship in a row. In October, he was called to testify in the criminal trial of James "Slim" Bouler and asked to explain why Bouler – a convicted cocaine dealer – was in possession of a Jordan-signed personal check for $57,000. The NBA superstar first claimed it was a business loan, but while being questioned under oath he changed his tune, admitting that it was actually payment on gambling and poker losses over a single weekend.
Turns out MJ was an even bigger gambler (and worse golfer) than most anyone had suspected: In early 1993, San Diego businessman Richard Esquinas revealed in the dreadfully titled Michael and Me: Our Gambling Addiction … My Cry for Help that he had taken Jordan for more than $900,000 in golf-related wagering. Right around the same time, Jordan was spotted at the baccarat pit of an Atlantic City casino in the wee hours of the morning before Game Two of the Eastern Conference Finals.
After the Jordan-led Chicago Bulls secured their third NBA Championship in a row, the NBA launched an investigation into Jordan's gambling habits to see whether he had violated league rules. Four months later, His Airness shocked the sports world by announcing his retirement from professional basketball.
"Five years down the road," he said at a press conference, "if the urge comes back, if the Bulls will have me, if David Stern lets me back in the league, I may come back."
"Was there a trade-off?" asked sports columnist Dave Kindred in The Sporting News. "Hey, MJ, you ‘retire,' we drop the ‘investigation.' Was Jordan advised/ordered by NBA commissioner David Stern to go away – go play baseball or something – and let the gambling stories die?"
If the conspiracy theories are right – and there is plenty of evidence that Jordan retired for his own reasons, like his father's murder in July 1993 and his complaints of basketball burnout after leading the 1992 Olympic "Dream Team" – then the trade-off worked beautifully: After spending a year in minor league baseball, Jordan announced his return to the NBA on March 18, 1995 with a press release consisting of just two words: "I'm back." The Jordan-led Bulls would enjoy another "three-peat," winning the NBA Championship in 1996, 1997 and 1998.
It looked as if the gambling stories were dead – at least until 2005, when Ed Bradley grilled Jordan during a "60 Minutes" profile.
"Yeah, I've gotten myself into situations where I would not walk away and I've pushed the envelope," Jordan told Bradley. "Is that compulsive? Yeah, it depends on how you look at it. If you're willing to jeopardize your livelihood and your family, then yeah."
Sited source: rezoom.com