Michael Jordan Dismisses Theories Father James Jordan's Death Linked to His Gambling in 'The Last Dance'

Episode 7 and 8 of The Last Dance showed different sides of Michael Jordan.

In the fourth weekly installment of ESPN's 10-part documentary about Jordan's final season with the Chicago Bulls, viewers got to see the basketball star at his ruthless, downright ferocious, competitive worst.

But they also saw a far more human side to Jordan as he explored the death of his late father, James Jordan.

The elder Jordan went missing in Lumberton, North Carolina, on July 23, 1993. His body was discovered in a swamp in McColl, South Carolina, nearly two weeks later. He had been murdered during a robbery.

On October 6, 1993, almost two months after his father was confirmed dead, Jordan announced he would leave the NBA and focus on baseball instead.

It was a bombshell that rocked the league. Jordan was the NBA's brightest superstar and a global icon and had just guided the Bulls to a third consecutive title in June, clinching a third straight NBA Finals MVP as Chicago beat the Phoenix Suns.

In Episode 7 of The Last Dance, Jordan revealed he had previously spoken to his father about swapping the court for the ballpark and that the topic monopolized their final conversation.

"We were debating, me and him, we were debating about me playing baseball," Jordan said in the documentary, as he recalled the last conversation he had with his father.

"Dad, 'I want to go play baseball. I'm thinking about retiring. I wanna go play baseball'," he explained.

"All the things that he was saying­­, 'Do it. Do it.' Because he had got me started in baseball."

Earlier episodes of the documentary highlighted how big a role Jordan's father played in his son's life.

From Jordan being recruited by North Carolina to his decision to reluctantly agree to listen to offers from Nike ahead of his rookie season, his father was a major influence on Jordan.

"He was my rock. We were very close," the younger Jordan explained in an emotional present-day interview in the documentary. "He's the voice of reason and always drove and challenged me. That's the type of father I had."

Jordan then explained the only aspect that made his father's tragic death slightly more bearable was that he had witnessed his son win a third NBA title in what at the time was Jordan's last NBA game.

"I'm a very optimistic person. I guess the biggest positive thing I can take out of my father not being here with me today is he saw my last basketball game and that means a lot," he explained.

Jordan's retirement and his father's murder both triggered a flurry of conspiracy theories. Some suggested the killing of Jordan Sr. was related to his son's gambling exploits, which the documentary touched upon in Episode 5 and 6. Others claimed a suspension handed out by the NBA for gambling-related matters was behind Jordan's retirement.

Both theories were swiftly dismissed in the documentary, but Jordan admitted he was affected by people trying to connect his father's death to his passion for gambling.

"It did hurt," he explained. "But you had people that were throwing darts who wanted to hurt me anyway. It wasn't from the people that I loved or the people that knew me and people that cared. It was people that got tired of me being on top.

"I didn't retire because the league kicked me out or they suspended me for a year and a half. That is not true. There's no truth to that. I needed a break. My father just passed. And I retired. And I retired with the notion that I wasn't going to come back."

Michael Jordan, Chicago Bulls
Michael Jordan of the Chicago Bulls listens to a question during a press conference after practice for Game Five of the NBA Finals on June against the Utah Jazz on June 11, 1997 at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois. Jeff Haynes/AFP/Getty