Jamal Crawford is one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet, superstar athlete or otherwise. It’s an interpersonal comportment that doesn’t quite jibe with his on-court persona, which is just about as ruthless as it gets. Maybe that’s because he wasn’t always so squeaky clean.
In his fantastic profile of Crawford at The Undefeated, Mike Wise details a particularly troubling incident early his career with the Chicago Bulls. Citing unnamed sources who spoke on condition of anonymity, Wise retells a story about how Crawford (along with Ray Allen) once spent a night at Michael Jordan’s restaurant, One Sixtyblue, shooting craps with professional gamblers. After things quickly spiraled out of control, Crawford found himself in some pretty serious trouble.
Over what is believed to be a two-day span, he said, he lost in the neighborhood of $100,000. A person with intimate knowledge of the game claims Crawford lost several hundred thousand and Allen lost even more. And that, days after the dice game, a call was placed to Goodwin, Crawford’s agent, to inform him that Crawford had not yet squared his debt with one professional gambler.
“OK,” Goodwin said, according to the person with intimate knowledge of the game. “What does he owe? Jamal is good for it.”
“No, you don’t understand,” the go-between said. “If he doesn’t pay now, these guys will kill Jamal.”
“Kill Jamal?!! He’s an NBA player. He gets paid as soon as the season starts. Give me the dude’s number.”
The person with knowledge of the game said Goodwin called the man Crawford owed money, set up a payment plan and resolved the issue without incident.
Crawford, however, claims in the article that he was never aware of his life being in danger. Still, it rattled him enough to where he’s never done any illegal gambling since. On a relatively-modest rookie deal at the time, Crawford apparently borrowed tens of thousands of dollars from Jordan that night as he dug himself a deeper hole, then later was forced to hand over his brand new Mercedes to help pay off his debts.
For Crawford, it was an important learning experience, one he hopes can serve as an example of what not to do for the younger guys, as gambling is rampant in NBA circles and one of the quickest ways players blow their money.