Bonus Play

For a lot of pro jocks, the real action starts when the games end.

Updated: July 21, 2003, 12:51 PM ET
By Tim Keown | ESPN The Magazine
A certain ex-NBA player is engaged in a serious argument with himself. He's about to tell a funny story, a story that exposes a little-known but long-suspected aspect of professional sports, but he doesn't know whether he wants his name attached to it. On the record? Off the record? He's a human metronome -- back, forth, back, forth. He knows the story is harmless, but there's one word nagging at the corners of his mind: gambling. "I can't believe I'm saying this, because it's not a big deal," he says. "But I'll tell you the story if you keep my name out of it."

So here it is: before a game a few years ago, our player-not-to-be-named-later set up a pair of $10 bets with a friend on the opposing team. The first guy to hit a three-pointer would collect $10 from the other, and the first to dunk would do the same. Our storyteller was more of a paint player, while his friend thrived on the trey. In short, a split was the likeliest outcome of their bet. "I was a starter that night and my friend came off the bench," the player says. "I got the dunk and the three before he even got in the game. It was nuts -- I set myself up for a three in the first quarter just because I had money on it."

Tim Keown | email

ESPN Senior Writer