Michael Jordan. The greatest basketball player to grace Planet Earth. A competitor unmatched by any of his contemporaries and set a bar that all future basketball players will be compared against. Michael Jordan, gambling aficinado, but was he a friend to gamblers?
ESPN’s airing of The Last Dance for two hours every Sunday night until mid-May is a welcome distraction for sports fans everywhere. While we may not have gambling action available on it we can still celebrate the gambling legend that was His Royal Airness.
1. Michael Jordan ATS in the Playoffs
In the Playoffs, the ferocious competitor within Jordan was unleashed. Nothing exemplified this better than the 53.6% of the time Jordan covered the spread in the playoffs. This includes his first six years in the league, three years where the Bulls were swept in Round 1. Even more remarkable, his Playoff ATS percentage was more money than his shooting in the playoffs (53.6% vs 48.7%).
2. Historic Run
Almost as impressive as their 72 win season, MJ and the Bulls were 46-33-1 ATS in the 1995-96 season. For comparison, the 2015-16 Warriors were only 45-35-2 ATS. Proof that Jordan > Curry.
3. Three Times a Dog
Three = the number of times the Bulls were underdogs during their historic 1995-96 run. Shockingly, but not really, the Bulls went 2-1 in those games. All three games came in November with only the Seattle SuperSonics knocking off the Bulls 97-92. MJ and the Bulls could not even cover either, a rare double-loss for them that season.
4. Not The Favorite Once
Over the Bulls’ six championship runs, there was only one year where they did not enter the playoffs as the favorites. That came in 1993 when Sir Charles and the Suns came in as +200 favorites while MJ and the Bulls were +300 to win it all. Any confidence in the Round Mound of Rebound quickly evaporated as Jordan was -240 before the Finals. Oh, and Chicago won the series soundly 4-2.
5. +700 Long Shot
+700 is the longest shot that Jordan’s Bulls ever were in a championship season in 1990-91. Coming off the 1989-90 season when the Pistons eliminated Jordan in seven in the Eastern Conference finals, the Bulls had the fourth-best odds to win it all. Coming in behind the “Not So Bad Anymore” Boys at +350, the Magic led Lakers at +450 and San Antonio at +600.
6. $100,000 Golf Bets
Rumor has it Jordan routinely laid down hundred-thousand-dollar bets on putts, holes, and whatever else. He would clear out all in his way. Charles Barkley would even get out of the way of the fierce competitor.
7. +350 Underdog Against Cavs
Michael Jordan was only an underdog in a first-round series once. One time throughout his entire career. He was a +350 underdog in 1989 to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Needless to say, the Cavaliers were the victims of an upset. Oh, and Jordan averaged 39.8 points per game against the Cavs.
8. 57 Covers
During the record-setting 1995-96 where Jordan went 72-10, they also covered the spread 57 times that season, including the postseason. A nearly unheard of record.
9. 50% ATS in ’96-’98 Finals
While Jordan and the Bulls were dominant in the NBA Finals from ’96-’98, going 12-5 over that stretch, they struggled with covering the spread during that same time frame. During that same time frame, they were 9-9 (.500) ATS in the finals. It’s a positive number, but not dominant.
10. Elimination Games .412
The GOAT and gambling aficionado struggled to cover the spread when trying to put opponents out of their misery in elimination games. Jordan only managed to cover the spread in seven elimination games during this time, he won 12 of those games, but gamblers certainly could not count on Jordan to cover in an elimination game.
11. Round 1 Ultimate Games
The number of ultimate games (Game 7 or Game 5 in Round One) that Jordan lost over the course of his career is only one. On June 3, 1990, Jordan and the Bulls got throttled by the Bad Boy Pistons in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals. It was the last time Jordan got eliminated after playing a full season, 94-95 where he came back from retirement does not count in this instance.
12. Wizards Win Totals
In the two forgettable seasons Jordan played for the Washington Wizards, he could not get the team over projected win totals. Both years they fell short with only 37 wins. They were also the only years Jordan did not play in a playoff game.
Jordan and the Bulls entered the 1986-87 Season as +10000 to win the NBA title and were bounced in the first round of the playoffs by the Celtics. From that year forward, the odds got better for Jordan and the Bulls each year.
14. 4 Overs
Four is the number of times that a Jordan-led team hit the over in the NBA Finals from ’96-’98. During that time Jordan was 4-10-1 for hitting the over in the Finals, and three of those overs came against Seattle in ’96. The Jazz/Bulls Matchups were kryptonite to the over in the Finals.
15. +700 Horncats
The best odds that owner MJ has achieved for the Charlotte Horncats. In 2014-15, the newly minted Hornets started the year as +700 to win the NBA Championship and made their best run to the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals that year.
16. Without Jordan .167
Without Jordan on the floor, the Bulls struggled mightily ATS from 1991-1993. During those six games, the Bulls were 1-5 ATS.
17. Without Pippen .488
During the fabled “Last Dance” season, 1997-98, the Bulls were 39-41-2 ATS without Scottie Pippen. The lines may have been deceiving, but Jordan and the Bulls had just come off a blistering 97-87-1 stretch from November 95 – June 97 so it was a definite let down.
18. 18 months
The number of months that Jordan took off from basketball from 1993-1995 while he was suspend… I mean pursuing a baseball career.
19. 29 years
That’s how long since Michael Jordan has been a playoff underdog. He entered the 1990 Eastern Conference Finals as a +220 dog to the Bad Boy Pistons.
20. 49% Covers
Jordan may have been a favorite often, but he only covered the spread 49% of the time as the favorite from 1991-1998. A solid percentage, but could be better for the GOAT.
21. 10.4 Favorites
From November 1995 through June 1997 Jordan and the Bulls were favored by an AVERAGE of 10.4 points per game. A ridiculously long stretch and a ridiculously high number. The Bulls were the most dominant team the NBA had and will see.
22. 185 games
From November 1995 through June 1997, no one was a favorite against Jordan. No one. 185 straight games of being the favorite. Forget 6-0 in Finals, 185 is a number that will never be matched again.
Never, not once, was Jordan a dog heading into the Finals. The closest he ever got was in 97-98 when he was -115 to win it all against the Jazz (+105). The truest sign of respect, the GOAT was expected to be the best every time he was on the court.