Skip to main content

How Michael Jordan-signed checks ended up in the briefcase of a murdered bail bondsman

Michael Jordan's addiction to competition gave him unwitting links to the criminal underworld.
Chicago Bulls guard Michael Jordan

Michael Jordan

It’s not a secret that Michael Jordan is addicted to competition. This vice powered him to six NBA Championships and the title of the Greatest of all Time. It’s also this hunger for competition that made him forge connections with the criminal underworld. Through golf, his other favorite sport, Jordan became linked to several shady figures.

Underworld connections

The year was 1991, Jordan was fresh off his first NBA Championship and was looking to get basketball off his mind for a bit. Golf was his preferred activity to free his mind even during the season. In David Halberstam’s book “Playing for Keeps: Michael Jordan and the World He Made,” he noted how Jordan went on a five-day golfing spree right after snagging his first NBA title. Of course, Jordan didn’t play golf just for show. Money had to be put on the table before he started swinging.

The games started at 8 a.m. Jordan and his crew would play as many as 27 holes a day. Bets ranged from $100 to as much as $1,000 a hole. Part of Jordan’s small circle was a guy named James “Slim” Bouler. Even before he met the Bulls guard, Bouler already had amassed a dark personal history. He was a convicted criminal for selling cocaine. He also had two probation violations for carrying semiautomatic weapons.

That summer of 1991 wasn’t the first time Bouler played and betted against Jordan. As early as 1986, he had been putting money on the table whenever Jordan visited his driving range in Monroe, North Carolina. In 1993, while behind bars in a federal prison in Texas, Bouler confessed that he carried as much as $30,000 with him whenever Jordan came to town.

Scroll to Continue

Recommended Articles

All I’ll tell you is: When you come to play, bring a lunch because you’re not going to no picnic,” he said.

Jordan-signed checks

A briefcase-carrying man named Eddie Dow was tasked to hold on to Bouler’s gambling profits. He was a local bail bondsman whose trade involved putting up money to free accused criminals.

After the five-day golf-betting spree in the summer of 1991, Jordan owed $57,000 to Bouler and $108,000 to Eddie Dow, who, as the bail bondsman, was tasked to hold on to Bouler’s money.

Fast forward to February 19, 1992, while in the carport of his home in the woods of North Carolina, Dow was gunned down by 23-year-old George Cale Buckner. He was a thief who had worked for Dow as a weekend bouncer at Recess, the bondman’s juice bar. Together with three accomplices, Buckner shot Dow twice with a high-powered rifle that immediately ended his life.

They grabbed Dow’s briefcase, raced off in his car, and took the cash that ran up to $20,000. They ditched the documents and threw out the briefcase in the North Carolina woods. Later, the thrashed suitcase was found by the authorities. 

Among the plethora of documents were three two checks, totaling $108,000, written and signed by Michael Jordan. Reports slightly contradict as Halberstam said two checks were found while a Chicago Tribune article a little over a month after the incident said three checks were recovered. Nevertheless, both accounts concurred that the checks amounted to $108,000 and were signed by Jordan.

There are no reports which confirm if Slim was connected to the murder. The main interest seems to have been the money stash that Dow is known to had been lugging around in his briefcase.

Golden State Warriors forward Kevin Durant and Cleveland Cavaliers guard Iman Shumpert

"You always calling for a ball screen, f*ck all that" - Iman Shumpert discusses his on-court battles with Kevin Durant

Iman Shumpert reveals Kevin Durant was the hardest player he had to guard in his career

Larry Bird

"It makes me sick to my stomach" - Larry Bird on tanking in the NBA

If Larry Legend knew his team was tanking, he would've left it outright.

Chicago Bulls forward Toni Kukoc

"I knew when I'd come here I am going to be this rookie kid that carries bags" - Toni Kukoc on how European players felt criticized coming into the NBA

His European basketball legacy may have not mattered in the NBA, but for Kukoc, he was still the "Croatian Sensation"

New Jersey Nets forward Kenyon Martin

“Everything after that was just basketball” — Kenyon Martin revealed the best moment of his career

For K-Mart, being drafted in the NBA was monumental but not a dream-come-true.

Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young and Philadelphia 76ers forward Georges Niang

“Now, you can’t even sneeze on a guy” — Gary Vee on why he prefers the physicality of old-school basketball over today’s NBA

Vee explained that the physicality back in the day was more than just players punching or close-lining each other but also about mental toughness and perseverance.