Jordan ends boycott, says he doesn't have problem NBA Finals notebook

June 10, 1993|By Alan Goldstein | Alan Goldstein,Staff Writer

PHOENIX -- Michael Jordan ended his media boycott befor Game 1 of the NBA Finals, telling NBC Sports he does not have a gambling problem.

"I just felt that it was unfair that I was being considered a criminal for doing something that is not illegal," Jordan said yesterday. "Gambling is legal, betting is legal."

Jordan approached an NBC crew and requested the interview shortly after he and the Chicago Bulls arrived at America West Arena.

When asked by interviewer Ahmad Rashad if he had a gambling problem, Jordan said: "I enjoy it. It's a hobby. If I had a problem, I'd be starving. I'd be hocking this watch, my championship rings. I'd sell my house, my wife would have left me or she would have been starving. I do not have a problem."

Jordan stopped talking to reporters May 26, a day after a published report said he was at an Atlantic City casino until 2 a.m. the night before Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals and lost $5,000. He admitted being in Atlantic City but disputed the amount of his losses and the time he supposedly left.

Colangelo's team

Jerry Colangelo, the president and architect of the Western Conference champion Phoenix Suns, remembers the skepticism he expressed when, in 1968, the NBA first proposed awarding a franchise to this desert city.

"I remember wondering out loud, 'Phoenix? How can we give DTC that place a team? There's nothing there but sand and cactus,' " recalled Colangelo, who coincidentally enough was then working general manager for the Bulls.

But Colangelo liked the challenge of starting from scratch with an expansion team. After finishing last their first season, the Suns flipped a coin with Milwaukee for the first draft pick. The Bucks won and got Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. The Suns settled for Neal Walk.

But Colangelo made several advantageous trades, and Phoenix became competitive by its fourth season. In 1976, the upstart Suns, with present coach Paul Westphal as one of their star players, lost a memorable six-game championship series to the Boston Celtics.

After forming a group of investors in 1988 that purchased the franchise for $44.5 million, Colangelo was in the driver's seat and made deals that led to the acquisition of Kevin Johnson, Dan Majerle, Mark West and, this past off-season, Charles Barkley.

Bad omen

Before the finals had even started, Westphal already was a loser of sorts.

For good luck, he wore his 1974 Celtics championship ring to a local restaurant last Saturday, but gave it to his wife, Cindy, for safekeeping in her purse. By the time they returned home, the ring was gone. Westphal said it has mostly sentimental value.

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