Michael Jordan Is So Competitive He Used to Cheat at Yahtzee

Jordan was a known cheat during his time with the Double-A affiliate Birmingham Barons

Michael Jordan #45 of the Birmingham Barons circa 1994. (Focus on Sport/Getty)
Michael Jordan #45 of the Birmingham Barons circa 1994. (Focus on Sport/Getty)
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By Evan Bleier / March 31, 2020 11:33 am

Twenty-six years ago today, a Chicago White Sox prospect was assigned to the club’s Double-A affiliate Birmingham Barons in Alabama. That prospect’s name was Michael Jordan.

At the time, the Barons were managed by future World Series-winning manager Terry Francona and players on the Southern League club made $850 a month with a $16 meal allowance on road trips. Riding the bus (though it was an upgraded one) and struggling to hit curveballs was quite a change for Jordan, who had won the third of his six NBA championships the previous summer.

One thing that didn’t change for Jordan while playing baseball in the minors was his competitive streak, as a new piece by ESPN’s Tim Kurkjian illustrates. As Francona explained to Kurkjian, he and Jordan would often play Yahtzee after he taught the NBA superstar how to play the dice game during Birmingham’s first road trip.

“No one was more competitive,” Francona said. “We’d play Yahtzee on every road trip on the bus (the Jordan Cruiser). He’s the richest man in America, the best basketball player ever, and I’m making $29,000 a year. And he’s cheating at Yahtzee to take my money because he just can’t bear to lose.”

Over the course of his brief career with the Barons, which ended with the baseball strike in March of ’95, Jordan hit .202/.289/.266 with three home runs, 51 RBI and 30 stolen bases.

When he returned to the NBA, he won three more championships, including one in 1998 which is the subject of a forthcoming docuseries on ESPN.

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