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SCORECARD
Edited by Richard O'Brien
August 16, 1993
The Jordan Affair
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August 16, 1993

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The Jordan Affair

Richard Esquinas, the man who claims Michael Jordan lost more than a million dollars to him in golf bets, now suggests that Jordan may have bet on basketball.

In a July meeting with Frederick Lacey, the former federal judge who's heading the NBA's inquiry into Jordan's gambling, Esquinas said he was at Jordan's home in Chicago on March 29, 1992, when he heard Jordan tell someone on the telephone, "So you're saying the line is seven points." Esquinas, who was watching the telecast of an NCAA basketball game with Jordan, says Jordan then turned his back and murmured into the phone for 30 seconds before hanging up. "I can't tell you a bet was placed," Esquinas told the New York Daily News last week. "But [the phone call] created a distinct impression in my mind that Jordan was discussing a betting line."

There were two college and three NBA games that day with morning lines ranging from 6� to nine points. While there's no proof that Jordan bet on any of them, or that he has ever bet illegally on sports, the mounting accusations should have the NBA more concerned than it seems to be.

From the first reports of Jordan's gambling, the NBA has responded as if it wished the matter would simply go away. Even when Jordan admitted losing hundreds of thousands of dollars on the golf course to Esquinas, the NBA seemed to focus its investigation solely on Esquinas's credibility. It's time the league turned its attention to Jordan's accountability.

Tip of the Cap

In contrast to its foot-dragging in the Jordan case, the NBA acted quickly last week when commissioner David Stern rejected the Portland Trail Blazers' signing of free agent Chris Dudley. The Blazers seemed to be asking the rest of the league to suspend disbelief by signing Dudley to a contract that would pay him only about $790,000 for the 1993-94 season after he had turned down offers of about $3 million a year from his old team, the New Jersey Nets, and, reportedly, from at least two other teams. Under the terms of the seven-year, $11 million agreement, Dudley would have then been free to leave Portland after next season.

The deal was a blatant attempt to circumvent the NBA's salary cap by a franchise that is now $2 million over the limit. The escape clause would allow Dudley to get out of the contract and promptly re-sign with the Blazers for credible numbers, around $2.5 million per year. That's because any team can re-sign its own free agents—Dudley would then be one—for any amount of money, regardless of the cap.

Stern's ruling now must be upheld by a special arbitrator, who will hear the case beginning on Aug. 16. For their part, the Blazers say they still have every intention of signing Dudley. Whether they can find a way to pay him enough is another question.

If the arbitrator rules against Portland—and he should—the NBA could fine the Blazers as much as $1 million and force them to forfeit future draft choices. For such a special deal, a special penalty is in order.

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