Basketball legend Michael Jordan rose to stardom in the ’80s, and his journey to the top remains unprecedented to this day. However, the NBA legend endured many controversies over the years. Here’s everything we know about the scandals and conspiracy theories following Jordan’s first retirement 26 years ago.
Michael Jordan’s gambling debts
In 1992, around the time Jordan won his first NBA title, Richard Esquinas published Michael and Me: Our Gambling Addiction — My Cry for Help came out and shocked sports fans around the world.
Self-published by Esquinas, a 38-year-old businessman and owner of San Diego Sports Arena, the book launch and the rapidly spreading knowledge of Jordan’s alleged gambling addiction spurred the NBA to respond with an investigation. The league even met with Espinas, according to the LA Times.
NBA Commissioner David Stern was forced to investigate the case. He hired former federal judge and U.S. attorney Frederick Lacey as a consultant — the same person who handled a 1992 case involved Jordan, who owed a lot of money. As the New York Times describes, the NBA officially cleared Jordan, who received no charges.
Jordan’s infamous interview
On June 9, 1993, NBC aired a triumphant Jordan after a recent NBA title win. After three minutes, the network proceeded to air an interview with Ahmad Rashad. In the infamous interview, Jordan refused to apologize for his alleged debts.
Then, on October 6, 1993, Jordan stunned the sports world with his sudden retirement. Why would the 30-year-old end his career just as it was peaking? The sports world still reflects on the circumstances surrounding the superstar’s first retirement with suspicion.
His father found murdered
Some argue that the sudden loss of Jordan’s father may have played a part in his decision to retire. In 1993, Jordan’s father James was found dead after a robbery had gone bad. He was returning from a funeral and had pulled over to the side of the road on I-74 near Lumberton, North Carolina to take a nap.
While resting in his Lexus, James was attacked and shot to death. His body was later found in a South Carolina swamp. Teenagers Daniel Green and Larry Demery were convicted of killing the 56-year-old. They both continue to serve life sentences.
A first retirement or a secret suspension?
Nonetheless, 26 years later, people still muse about what was really behind Jordan’s first retirement. Devoted fans say the sports superstar was taking a well-earned break after winning his first NBA title and mourning the loss of his father.
Others muse about a cover-up and a secret suspension by the NBA. Whatever really happened, both the speculation and Jordan’s remarkable legacy live on.