Even in retirement, Michael Jordan’s reputation as a relentless winner proceeds him. Basketball lore is filled with anecdotes, ranging from the understandable to the bizarre, depicting His Airness’ unceasing desire to be the best. One of those, which fell closer to the latter end of the spectrum, focused on rigging bets at an airport baggage carousel.
During a recent interview, though, Scottie Pippen weighed in on that story and shared his version of events. According to the forward, MJ might have had an advantage, but that doesn’t mean he outright rigged the bet.
Michael Jordan was known to bet on everything, including the airport baggage carousel
While he possessed plenty of natural talent, a key part of Michael Jordan’s mythos was his compulsive desire to defeat any challenger. Beyond that basketball court, that usually manifested itself in gambling.
Although many of those bets were conventional, with wagers placed on golf scores and hands of cards, MJ was also willing to push the envelope. If he saw an opportunity to assert his dominance, he was going to seize it. Take, for example, what reportedly happened at an Oregon airport.
According to an old Bill Simmons story that’s still live on ESPN.com, the Bulls arrived in Portland on a commercial flight. As the squad gathered around the luggage carousel, MJ pulled out a $100 bill and bet his peers that his bag would come out first. Sure enough, it did, and Jordan took cash from nine of his teammates.
As if that’s not competitive enough, there’s still one more twist in the tale. In Simmon’s version of the story, the Bulls’ star had bribed the baggage handler to ensure that he’d win the bet. While it presumably cut into his winnings, it also insured that MJ would come out on top.
Scottie Pippen has a slightly different version of events
In isolation, that Jordan story sounds strange enough to be true. During a recent interview, however, his running mate shared a slightly different take on what happened.
“I’m going to go against that [version of events],” Pippen explained on The Dan Le Batard Show. “Michael Jordan had his own beautiful bags,” Pippen said. “At this time, we didn’t have team bags, so when you saw a bag come off and it had a Jumpman on it, I’m sure for the guys working at the airport, that was the first bag they grabbed. So he had an advantage, but I don’t think it was something he intentionally did. It was just a knowing thing that he knew people were going to jump on his bag.”
With that being said, the forward still confirmed the overall sentiment of the original story.
“I will say that he cheated on a few of his bets,” Pip added.
Based on the stories, Michael Jordan is still willing to push the envelope to win a bet
While Pippen didn’t specifically say which bets MJ cheated on, that doesn’t seem out of character for His Airness. As mentioned above, the living NBA legend always wants to be the top dog, even if it means pushing the envelope.
Take, for example, Jordan’s time on the golf course. While the former Chicago Bull is a capable player who spends plenty of time on the links, he wasn’t afraid to violate the rules of etiquette when money was on the line.
“I played a couple of times with Michael Jordan, and I remember being a fool once and accepting one of his bets on a putt,” Michael Douglas explained. “He wanted to make it some crazy amount — in the thousands. I’m not a big gambler. I lined up the putt, and, over and over, Jordan starts ripping the Velcro on his golf glove. I was like, ‘What are you doing?!’ And he goes, ‘Look, man. If I can make a free throw with 20,000 people screaming at me, you can make a putt with me making a little noise.’”
While it’s not clear if Jordan won that bet or not, the underlying message is clear. If you’re competing against MJ, he’ll probably seize an advantage, even if he isn’t outright cheating.