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When a $1.2 Million Lie Forced Tom Cruise to Defend Michael Jordan via Scathing Letter to Author Who Maligned the Bulls Legend in 1993

Published 10/17/2022, 11:00 AM EDT
The sports community has long known about Michael Jordan’s gambling habits. In addition to being an excellent basketball player, Michael Jordan also loved playing golf and still does today. While he seemingly no longer indulges in gambling, golf is still one of his favorite ways of passing the time.
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However, during the late 80s and early 90s, MJ would often mix two of his hobbies together. He was so into gambling that he once ended up owing more than $1.2 million to a businessman-turned-author.
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Michael Jordan met Richard Esquinas at a summer exhibition game of NBA stars. The event took place in August of 1989 and was hosted by the San Diego Sports Arena, which Esquinas co-owned. They were introduced to each other by former basketball coach Smokey Gains and quickly developed a liking for each other.
Given that both of them played golf and were into gambling, it didn’t take long for them to schedule a game. In fact, the duo went on to test each other’s skills the very next day. Their first game together and they had already made a bet of $2,500, which Jordan reportedly won.
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This went on for three years during which they played approximately 100 rounds, according to Esquinas. While they usually played 36 holes, this one time they opted to play 45 instead. The wager was $1,000 per hole and they had agreed to make side bets if one lags behind. The game was played in September 1991 in North Carolina.
Esquinas ended up owing $98,000 to ‘His Airness’. At the next game, they bet double-or-nothing for the same amount Esquinas owed. Unfortunately for MJ, his opponent ended up winning. Similarly, MJ started losing in the next few games and the debt eventually piled up to $1.252 million. However, things soon turned sour between the two when Esquinas released a controversial book.
Richard Esquinas published a book called, “Michael & Me: Our gambling addiction … my cry for help!” in 1993. The book chronicled Esquinas and Michael Jordan’s golf sessions in detail and the amount MJ owed to him. This did not sit well with the former Chicago Bulls star who refused to pay the rest of the debt.
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“I was in the process of finishing off all the payments, but when he pulled this stunt — we never had a written agreement, I was more or less going off my honor — I felt he dishonored me, so I don’t owe him any more honor. What’s the balance? Zero, in my book.” said MJ.
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In support of the NBA legend, Hollywood actor Tom Cruise too condemned Esquinas’ action. Cruise sent him a letter where he expressed his displeasure with Esquinas for violating Jordan’s privacy.
“I, for one, hope that I never have a friend or confidant who betrays my trust the way you have betrayed that of Michael Jordan,” wrote Cruise.
After a few more sessions, MJ had reduced the debt from $1.2 million to $902,000 which was then further reduced to $300,000. They had agreed that Jordan would pay the amount in installments over three years. However, after paying $200,000, MJ backed out. The reason being Esquinas’ book.
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Do you agree with Tom Cruise and Michael Jordan? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.

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