Michael Jordan’s former golf gambling opponent responds to documentary

michael jordan richard esquinas

Michael Jordan and Richard Esquinas on the cover of Esquinas' book about gambling on the golf course with the NBA legend.

Richard Esquinas used to play Michael Jordan for a standard wager of $1000/hole, he says. Now his limit is something closer to a $20 Nassau.

In 1993, Esquinas wrote a book about gambling against Jordan: Michael & Me: Our gambling addiction … my cry for help! He told the story of how their contests on the golf course escalated — to the point where at one point in 1992, Jordan owed him $1.2 million. After that story resurfaced in last week’s episodes of The Last Dance on ESPN, the San Diego Union-Tribune caught up with Esquinas to see what had happened in the decades since.

To review, here’s the basic outline of Jordan’s alleged gambling debts, as laid out in Esquinas’ book: First, Jordan owed him $153,000. Several double-or-nothing matches later, that amount had spiraled to $1.2 million. Jordan played his tab down to $902,000, agreed to pay $300,000 and ended up paying $200,000 until Esquinas published his book, at which point Jordan ceased payments.

For his part, Jordan has said he only ever owed $300,000 and that Esquinas’ book effectively sent his remaining balance to zero.

Tales of Jordan’s large-scale on-course gambling habits have spread again as the documentary has aired. This week, frequent golf partner Charles Barkley told GOLF’s Subpar about one round the two were playing together. Jordan insisted that Barkley take a lengthy gimme worth $1000 so he could focus on a more important putt against another playing partner.

“I said, ‘How much is that putt for?’” Barkley remembered. “He said, ‘$100,000.’ I said, ‘WHAT!’”

Reporter Mark Zeigler tracked down Esquinas in Palm Springs. Now 65, the former businessman keeps a single-digit handicap but has turned his energy in a different direction: yoga. He said he is “dedicated to teaching and spreading the wisdom of yoga.” But that doesn’t mean he’s unaware of all that has gone on with Jordan’s documentary in recent weeks. Esquinas has seen the clips.

He told the Union-Tribune the NBA’s subsequent investigation was a “sham” and that Jordan was unfair to lump him in with a crowd of people “that he shouldn’t have been around.” But what seems to still sting more than anything is the fact that Jordan didn’t pay up.

“For whatever reason, I think a lot of this is just the fact that he did not want the loss,” Esquinas told the Union-Tribune. “He didn’t want to give me a W. Maybe he was embarrassed. Writing me a check was an L to him … I don’t understand when a man won’t pay.”

You can read the entire piece on Esquinas here.

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Dylan Dethier

Golf.com

Dylan Dethier is a senior writer for GOLF Magazine/GOLF.com, where he’s told the story of a strange cave in Mexico, a U.S. Open qualifier in Alaska and plenty in between. Dethier joined GOLF in 2017 after two years scuffling on the mini-tours. He is a Williamstown, Mass., native and a 2014 graduate of Williams College, where he majored in English. Dethier is the author of 18 in America, which details the year he spent as an 18-year-old living from his car and playing a round of golf in every state.