Steve Kerr has thrown cold water on the conspiracy theory that Michael Jordan was forced into his first retirement as a secret punishment for his gambling issues, one that is now back in the spotlight.
There had long been rumors that Jordan’s abrupt retirement weeks before the start of the 1993-94 season was due to the league handing down a long suspension for the basketball legend, the result of his well-known penchant for gambling. The issue has come back into the spotlight thanks to the ESPN docu-series The Last Dance, which this week delved into Jordan’s retirement and one-year exile from basketball as he played minor league baseball in the Chicago White Sox farm system.
Jordan told reporters at the time that he was simply tired, having just led the Bulls to their third consecutive NBA title in addition to leading the 1992 U.S. Olympic men’s basketball team, nicknamed the “Dream Team.” Jordan had also just lost his father, who was murdered that summer.
But as Sportscasting noted, Jordan’s own reply seemed to fuel the conspiracy theories, as he mused about potentially coming back to the league one day — if NBA Commissioner David Stern would “let” him.
“Five years down the line, if that urge comes back, if the Bulls have me, if David Stern lets me back in the league, I may come back,” Jordan said.
Though the NBA reportedly did investigate Jordan’s gambling habits, one famous Bulls teammate has said that Jordan wasn’t lying when he said he was drained. Steve Kerr, the Bulls sharpshooter who played a major role in the title runs, told David Aldridge and Michael Lee of The Athletic that the Bulls legend was “fried” from the pressure of leading the team to three consecutive titles.
Kerr pushed back against those who speculated that the Bulls could have won eight in a row if Jordan had stayed, including both the 1994 and 1995 titles before the second three-peat between 1996 and 1998. The Golden State Warriors coach, who led his team to five consecutive trips to the NBA Finals with three wins, said that kind of feat is easier said than done.
“People have no idea how emotionally draining it is for a team to keep winning,” Kerr said.
“To me, the reason we won the second three was because he got away and recharged his batteries. He needed it, desperately. And that’s why he left. He was just burned out.”
As far as the lingering conspiracy theories that Jordan was forced into retirement, Kerr said they are “dumb.”