Risk and Reward: NBA Players Who Love Gambling

Basketball is a game of skill, talent, and physical abilities, but some NBA players take their risks beyond the court, and they love to take risks. It’s no surprise that basketball players have been known to enjoy gambling since the game’s early days. In fact, former NBA commissioner David Stern was a known gambler. 

As per National Basketball Association rules, players are prohibited from betting on NBA games, but they are free to gamble at casinos or poker rooms. Some NBA players have gotten caught up in their wagering habits, but for others, it is just a recreational activity. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at NBA players who love gambling.

Top NBA Players With a Love for Gambling

The NBA is home to some of the most talented athletes in the world. But, when it comes to wagering, it’s also home to some of the most significant risk-takers. Here are also some of the most notorious gamblers in recent NBA history:

  • Michael Jordan

Perhaps the most famous and controversial NBA player when it comes to taking risks is Michael Jordan. He was born in Pennsylvania, a state, which has become well-known in recent years for its gambling opportunities, including the best online sportsbooks in Pennsylvania, land-based casinos etc. 

Michael Jordan has been known to bet millions of dollars on golf, cards, and casino games. In 1993, he was investigated by the NBA for his alleged association with a convicted bookie. Jordan denied any wrongdoing, and the case was dropped. 

  • Paul Pierce 

The retired NBA player Paul Pierce has also been known to place bets on sports and casino games. He’s appeared on several gambling-related TV shows and even won $100,000 on a craps game. However, Pierce’s gambling activities have sometimes caused controversy. In 2008, he was fined $25,000 by the NBA for participating in a poker game involving underground clubs and criminals. Pierce later apologized and said that he didn’t know what he was getting into.

  • Shaquille O’Neal

Shaquille O’Neal, a former NBA player, was born in Newark, New Jersey. Interestingly, New Jersey boasts some of the least stringent gambling laws in the US. This led the state to legalize online wagering within its borders in 2013. That’s why there are a variety of activities there, such as casino gambling in Atlantic City, the best NJ sportsbooks, the New Jersey Lottery, horse racing, off-track betting etc.

O’Neal is widely regarded as one of the greatest players in NBA history, and won multiple championships throughout his career. However, O’Neal has also been known to enjoy gambling and has been spotted at various casinos over the years. In 2013, O’Neal was sued by a man who claimed that O’Neal had harassed him over a wagering debt. The case was eventually settled out of court.

  • J.R. Smith 

J.R. Smith is a current NBA player who has been open about his love of gambling. He’s been seen playing blackjack, roulette, and poker. Smith has even admitted that he missed practice because he was playing blackjack all night. However, he’s also said that he’s never lost more than he can afford, and that gambling helps him unwind and relax.

Finally, we have LeBron James, one of the most successful and popular NBA players of all time. While James hasn’t been caught up in any gambling scandals or controversies, he has admitted to enjoying a friendly game of cards with his teammates. He’s also been seen playing blackjack in Las Vegas. However, James has said that he’s careful with his money and that he doesn’t want gambling to distract him from his basketball career.

  • Allen Iverson

Allen Iverson, a former professional basketball player, was widely recognized for his exceptional crossover dribble, which made him one of the most proficient athletes in the history of the NBA. 

Nevertheless, Iverson’s fondness for sports and casino game gambling, especially blackjack at live gambling sites, began during his university years at Georgetown University. In 1996, he joined the Philadelphia 76ers but did not secure a significant amount of earnings until the team offered him a six-year contract extension worth 70 million dollars in 2000.


Gambling is a recreational activity, and for some top NBA players, it’s an outlet for their competitiveness. While some players’ gambling habits landed them in controversy, others kept it under control. As it stands, gambling may be detrimental to some people, but it’s a fun pastime for others. 

As long as there’s a limit and responsible wagering measures are put in place, it’s just another hobby. These NBA players have shown us that even the best basketball players need to unwind, and gambling may be their way of doing it. Let’s learn from their experiences and make wise choices in our own lives.


Story originally appeared on Mountain West Wire