Book on Jordan taken in stride by focused Bulls

June 04, 1993|By Melissa Isaacson | Melissa Isaacson,Chicago Tribune

CHICAGO -- If there was ever a chance that Michael Jordan might lift his boycott of the media, it sure was not going to happen yesterday in the wake of an author's allegation that Jordan ran up a $1.252 million debt in golf bets and has a serious gambling problem.

Richard Esquinas, 38, former general manager of the San Diego Sports Arena, says in his newly released book, "Michael & Me: Our Gambling Addiction ... My Cry For Help," that he and Jordan negotiated the debt down to $300,000 and that Jordan has paid $200,000 and agreed to pay another $100,000 by next January.

Jordan, who is silent these days as an after-effect of the New York-based stories regarding a trip to an Atlantic City casino before Game 2 of the Chicago Bulls' playoff series against the New York Knicks, left the Bulls' practice yesterday before reporters were allowed in.

But general manager Jerry Krause and several of Jordan's teammates refused to criticize their superstar guard.

Bulls coach Phil Jackson, several players said, made mention of the story in the film session, asking Jordan what it was all about. Jordan apparently shrugged off the inquiry, telling Jackson, "Look at the source and make your own conclusions."

Krause offered little more than a no-comment. "I have no knowledge of it," he said. "I have not asked Michael about it because it's his own private business."

As to whether the Bulls' organization would discuss the book with Jordan, Krause responded, "I've found through life that things take a course. We'll just have to see what happens. Right now, the only issue in this organization in the near future is winning the basketball game [tonight] and getting back to the NBA Finals."

Added center Scott Williams: "This team is on a mission and we're not going to let anything detract our focus from winning a third championship. [Distractions are] starting to become pretty routine, but we're not going to worry about it. It's something Michael's going to deal with himself and he's not going to let that bother his play on court."

Asked if the NBA would investigate the matter, vice president of public relations Brian McIntyre said the league was "looking into it." Last year the NBA issued a reprimand of sorts to Jordan after his large poker and golf debts to a convicted cocaine dealer became public.

In a telephone interview with the Chicago Tribune, Esquinas denied writing the book to force Jordan to pay the debt.

"I wrote the book for three reasons. One, to help my own recovery process. It's my own catharsis. Two, I did it to help Michael. And, three, to draw attention to the hazards of compulsive gambling," said Esquinas, who owns the company that published the book.

"The book traces my own personal gambling, so I can understand and appreciate when a person is in denial. Michael is a person in denial. I realized it after 1991 when he lost $1.2 million to me and as we tried to go toward collecting."

Esquinas said there is "no ulterior motive" to what he calls "shock intervention" on Jordan's behalf.

Esquinas said he did not tell Jordan he was writing the book.

Esquinas, who wrote the book with Dave Distel, a former sports editor of the San Diego County edition of the Los Angeles Times, said he doesn't fear a lawsuit.

"I have substantiated my story with facts, dates and other details," he said.

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