NBA players have plenty of down time while traveling from city to city. Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel examined the new heights players have taken their competition to: high stakes poker.
"I've heard guys who have lost $30,000 on an hour plane trip," Charlotte guard Derek Anderson, the former Heat reserve, says. "It's amazing — $30,000 in an hour. You leave Chicago, you have $30,000. You arrive in Detroit, you don't."Though the amounts are staggering, they must be put into perspective. An average NBA players earns a salary of $5.4 million. That divides out to $66,000 per game. If they have the money to spare, and the players do, they might as well burn it.
While gambling came under intense scrutiny last summer in the wake of the NBA officiating scandal that linked referee Tim Donaghy with bookmakers, the review process eventually eased the restrictions on friendly card games among referees. That essentially sanctioned them throughout the sport.
"It's been part of the culture," says Heat coach Pat Riley, whose time in the league dates to his rookie season with the San Diego Rockets in 1967. "We used to play poker games in the middle of the aisles on commercial airlines, with six guys on aisle seats throwing cards in the middle, with customers walking through the money.