No, His Airness isn't about to give up hoops for another crack at baseball; rather, the basketball god known for great defense on the court is going on the legal offensive, suing an ex-lover he claims is trying to extort millions of dollars from him.
In the lawsuit filed Wednesday in Chicago's Cook County Circuit Court, the former Chicago Bulls star and current Washington Wizard admits to paying the woman, identitifed as Karla Knafel, $250,000 to keep a lid on their dalliance.
However, the suit claims, Knafel wasn't satisfied with the quarter-mil, and she allegedly contacted Jordan's lawyers and demanded an additional payment of $5 million, otherwise, she said, she go public with their affiar.
The lawsuit states Jordan never agreed to pay his onetime mistress anything more than the $250,000, which he initially gave her so she would "not to publicly expose their relationship."
The suit contends her request for additional hush money amounted to "extortion" and violated Illinois' fraud statute, since Knafel had previously agreed not to expose their affair, and Jordan never signed any such agreement in writing. (The complete court document can be found online at The Smoking Gun Website.)
The lawsuit indicates the affair took place more than a decade ago, but did not specify when it began or ended and whether it had anything to do with Jordan's wife, Juanita, filing for divorce last January. Juanita Jordan, who cited "irreconcilable differences" as the reason for the split, withdrew that petition 31 days later, saying she and Michael would try to work things out.
(The Chicago Tribune quoted friends as saying the petition caught Michael off guard, and he pushed for the reconciliation. The couple tied the knot on September 2, 1989.)
The new complaint seeks a declaration from a judge that Knafel's demand is "unenforceable" and requests an injunction against her or any other persons acting on her behalf from "engaging in further efforts to extort money from Mr. Jordan."
The suit also asks the judge to grant Number 23 any necessary relief the court feels is proper, up to and including a jury trial for the supposed shakedown.
The six-time NBA champion, who spent most of his career with the Bulls before retiring in 1999 and then coming back as a Wizard, is staying mum on the subject. "That's private. That's totally private," said Jordan after being bombarded by reporters' questions following a Wednesday night exhibition game. "I think the statement speaks for itself."
Jordan's attorney, Fred Sperling, reiterated as much this morning: "The complaint says everything Michael Jordan has to say."
The FBI in Chicago and the Cook County state attorney's office refused to comment on whether they were looking into the extortion accusations for a possible criminal charge.
Little is known about Knafel other than what was in Jordan's complaint.
Attempts to reach Jordan's former mistress for comment were unsuccessful, however, the Tribune reported that a woman claiming to be Knafel's sister said Knafel was out of town.