The ESPN documentary series “The Last Dance” has provided hours of insight into the 1997-98 Chicago Bulls, and particularly about NBA great Michael Jordan. But in between detailing rivalries with the likes of the Detroit Pistons and his key role on the 1992 Dream Team, the series also delved into Jordan’s legendary gambling habits, which included high-stakes poker games with his teammates and friends.
After ESPN aired the sixth episode of “The Last Dance” on Sunday – one that detailed how Jordan’s gambling habits became a point of public debate – former NBA star Charles Barkley appeared on ESPN and shared stories of his time playing poker with his former rival.
Barkley: Jordan Tried to Buy Poker Pots
Barkley talked about how several members of the 1992 Olympic Dream Team regularly played poker as they trained and competed together in Barcelona.
“Every night – not one night, not two nights, not 10 nights – me, Magic [Johnson], Scottie [Pippen], and [Jordan] played cards every single night,” Barley told Scott Van Pelt.
As Barkley told it, Jordan and Johnson knew they had one definitive advantage over their opponents, and they pressed it regularly.
Me and Scottie don’t have as much money as Michael and Magic, but we knew that no matter what the cards were, at the end of the night like three or four times a night, Michael was always going to try to buy the pot,” Barkley said. “[Jordan] and Magic are on a whole different level than me and Scottie, but they tried to buy the pot every single night. It was awesome and hilarious.”
Barkley also noted that Jordan’s intensity and drive to win carried over to the poker table.
“You have to have 100% confidence in your hand if you’re going to go all-in against Michael, because he’s going to be doubling down, doubling down,” Barkley said. “If you have a good hand, you have to go all-in.”
Barkley wasn’t the only one to share a Michael Jordan poker story following Sunday’s episodes. Former Gonzaga standout Adam Morrison shared his own tale on the Battle for LA Podcast, one that came from his days with the Charlotte Bobcats after Jordan became a minority owner of the team.
Gambling Stories Common During MJ’s Career
Morrison recalled Jordan flying with the team on a road trip, and agreeing to play in a poker game. With the players knowing Jordan’s penchant for high stakes, they capped the Texas Hold’em game at a maximum bet of $1,000 per street.
So, him and Gerald Wallace were in a hand…there was a straight draw, flush draw on the flop and you could tell Mike was drawing to something, and Gerald bet $300 into him,” Morrison said. “Mike literally goes, ‘$300? I would watch two monkeys f— for $300!’”
Stories about Jordan’s gambling have been told for decades. One of the most infamous – discussed during “The Last Dance” – was his decision to travel from New York to Atlantic City the night before Game 2 of the 1993 Eastern Conference Finals. Jordan would go on to score 36 points in the game, but shot just 12-for-32 from the field as the Knicks beat the Bulls 96-91. Chicago came back to win the next four games and the series.