SAN DIEGO, JUNE 3 -- A San Diego businessman claims he and Michael Jordan were out-of-control compulsive gamblers who wagered more than $1 million on their golf games.
"Our matches frequently came down to $100,000 putts with occasional swings of upwards of a quarter-million dollars," Richard Esquinas wrote as co-author of the book, "Michael & Me: Our Gambling Addiction ... My Cry For Help!"
"Personally, I felt I was a controlled gambler until Michael and I went berserk in one period of approximately 10 days in September 1991, when I went from potentially more than $200,000 in debt to $1.25 million ahead."
The book, printed by a company owned by Esquinas, won't be in most stores for another three to four weeks. Until then it will be available by telephone order.
Esquinas claims Jordan fell $626,000 in debt in their golf wagers, then doubled the bet and lost again. The $1.252 million debt eventually was reduced to $902,000 by still more golf wagers last year.
Esquinas also said he settled for $300,000 because he was convinced Jordan would not pay him the entire amount. Esquinas said he had received two checks for a total of $200,000, with the third and final payment due next January.
Jordan's agent, Falk Associates, had no comment today on the reports. Ted Ewanciw, who handles Jordan's account, said it is company policy not to discuss Jordan's personal life.
However, Nike, the company with which Jordan has a multimillion-dollar contract, lashed out at the superstar's critics.
"It's so out of proportion here," said Dusty Kidd, Nike's manager of public relations. "The guy is a great athlete and a great human being who is being attacked by people who are using him to get publicity. ... I'm not buying into it and I don't think anybody else should, either.
"You've got to think, what's the motivation here?"
Bulls General Manager Jerry Krause said he has no first-hand knowledge of the allegations, adding, "Michael's private business is Michael's private business."
Esquinas said he reported $500,000 in income on his 1992 tax returns, including $125,000 in gambling winnings from Jordan. "I'm his No. 1 opponent on the golf course," he said.
Esquinas said San Diego residents Fred Sarno, Eric Weinberg and Ron Heitzinger helped fill foursomes with him and Jordan.
Heitzinger confirmed Esquinas's story. He said he became ill in 1991 and wasn't able to play regularly, but knew what was going on.
Dave Distel, the former sports editor of the San Diego County edition of the Los Angeles Times, co-authored the book.
"At first, I was skeptical" of Esquinas's claims, Distel said today. "But I wouldn't have written it if I wasn't totally convinced. He had so many details, so many records, canceled checks and such, to back up what he said."
Jordan's gambling already has prompted a National Basketball Association investigation. In another episode, he paid off $165,000 in golf and poker debts, including a $57,000 check to a convicted cocaine dealer. The NBA found no reason to discipline him.
On May 24, before Game 2 of the Knicks-Bulls series, Jordan went to an Atlantic City casino. He reportedly lost $5,000, although he denies losing that much.