Jamal Crawford once gave up Mercedes to settle gambling debt

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Jamal Crawford has had a long, decorated NBA career. He's the only player in league history to be named Sixth Man of the Year three times. Beneath the surface however, there's been some turmoil - and it goes beyond having 17 head coaches on six teams over 16 pro seasons.

Early in his career, Crawford accumulated a six-figure gambling debt over two nights shooting craps, according to an account by The Undefeated's Mike Wise. The guard was then forced to give up his Mercedes Benz S Class in order to help square up, Crawford said.

"It was like air money. But it was money I was going to have to pay somehow eventually," Crawford said.

"It was just this feeling of, man, you think you made it and then you go back to your old ways and do something that completely undermines yourself. Honestly, everybody just wanted to be around Michael most of the time and he was doing his thing. I don't hold anybody responsible but me."

The "Michael" Crawford is referring to is Michael Jordan. Following his rookie season with the Chicago Bulls in 2001, Crawford found himself working out with the legend - who was then planning a comeback with the Washington Wizards. At night, himself and other NBA players, such as Ray Allen, would join Jordan for dinner and various games of chance.

However, Crawford was on a rookie-scale contract at the time, unlike Allen and certainly unlike billionaire Jordan. And while Crawford would not confirm it, his debt entered dangerous territory according to Wise:

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 (Aaron) 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 says he has not shot dice or gambled outside a legitimate casino since that night.

"I'm glad it happened then," Crawford said of his then-21-year-old self. "It's just a blip now, another learning experience. For me, my entire existence in the NBA has been about becoming a better decision-maker."

Jamal Crawford once gave up Mercedes to settle gambling debt
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