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5 NBA Players that went to rehab

Drug and alcohol addiction is one of the saddest situations to be in. It can destroy not only a player professionally but can affect their personal life to a degree of no return. Sportsmen have been under the scanner for such habits for decades now and in some cases, it is quite easy to understand why.

Some players have a really rough childhood growing up and come from bad neighborhoods or surround themselves with the wrong company during their high school and when they do enter the fame of the illustrious league and the money that comes with it, it's just too much for them to resist.


There was a serious problem for the league in the 80s and even the 90s to an extent. Former assistant coach and respected scout Ed Badger famously said that in the 1986 draft was unlucky for many teams with numerous players succumbing to drug or alcohol addiction.

Here is a look at some of the most infamous cases of drug abuse in the NBA:

#5 Richard Dumas

Richard Dumas with the Philadelphia 76ers during the 1995-96 season (Image courtesy: philadelphia.cbslocal.com)

Taken with the 46th pick of the 1992 NBA draft by the Pheonix Suns, Dumas was suspended before his NBA career could even start. He failed a drug test before the training camp began and spent the first nineteen games of his rookie season playing in Israel due to suspension.


When he eventually took the court, there were signs of a very promising player. He averaged 15.8 points and 4.6 rebounds in his rookie season and helped the Suns secure the best record in the league with 62 wins and even reached the NBA Finals. He was named to the All-Rookie second team for his performances.

Three months after the NBA Finals, Dumas was in rehab and retired from the game at the age of 26 stating that he "got bored of basketball". In 2013 Dumas was arrested on eight felony charges of alleged Organized Retail Theft. Dumas claimed that his increased drug use was due to Nancy Reagan's "Just Say No" campaign making him all the more curious.

#4 Lamar Odom

Lamar Odom in BIG3 action- Week One - Detroit

Odom is the perfect example of a man who got caught on the ugly side of fame. He was drafted by the LA Clippers fourth overall in 1999. He was named to the All-Rookie First team. He was suspended for violation of the league's drug policy in 2001, he returned after five games.

He moved to the Lakers in 2004, as part of the package that brought Shaquille O'Neal to Miami and stayed there for the next seven seasons. He was an integral piece to the Los Angeles Lakers winning two Championships in 2009 and 2010. He won the sixth man of the year in 2011.

In 2013 Odom was arrested for driving under the influence and refused to submit a chemical test. He then pleaded guilty to the DUI and agreed to check himself into rehab. Odom's wife Khloe Kardashian filed for divorce later that year. In 2015, Odom was found unconscious in a brothel in Nevada. He was in a coma and even on life support for a few days.


Odom is still on the road to recovery but seems to be making strides in the process. We hope that Odom can put his past behind him and concentrate on leading a successful and healthy life.

#3 Shawn Kemp

Shawn Kemp throwing the first pitch at the Detroit Tigers v Seattle Mariners game

When the Seattle Supersonics drafted Kemp 17th overall in 1989, everyone thought they had landed a world beater. He had eight stellar seasons with the Sonics making five All-Star games in that period. There was also a rumor serious at the time which would send Kemp to the Chicago Bulls in turn for Scottie Pippen. The trade never materialized.

Kemp was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers in 1997 and spent three seasons with them. During this period there were major questions about his mental drive for the game as his weight issues hampered his durability.

His struggle with not being able to lose weight meant that he got traded in 2000 to the Trailblazers. In his first season, he revealed that he was battling both alcohol and drug addictions and ended his season early to check into rehab. He was eventually waved in 2002.

Kemp was set to be an All-Time great and be in the conversation among the greatest power forwards ever. But the abuse of alcohol and drugs cut short what should have been a long and great career.


#2 Len Bias

Len Bias after getting drafted by the Celtics (Image courtesy: espn.com)

This is possibly the most tragic what-if in the history of the NBA and possibly sports entirely. Len Bias never even got the chance to start his career. He was one of the hottest prospects in the 1986 draft and was picked second overall by the Boston Celtics. Tragedy struck when two days later when Bias died due to a cocaine overdose. He spent his college career playing at the University of Maryland.

This is where started receiving comparisons to Michael Jordan due to his leaping abilities, play-making skills and overall finesse on the court. He was named the ACC Athlete of the Year and a two-time ACC Player of the Year. Red Auerbach stated that the city of Boston had not been so shocked since the assassination of John F Kennedy. On June 30, 1986, the Celtics honored Bias with their own memorial service, giving his never-used #30 team jersey to his mother, Lonise.


The biggest tragedy of all is that the world will never know exactly what Bias would have accomplished had he not succumbed to his addiction.

#1 David Thompson

David Thompson in action for Denver (Image courtesy: bleacherreport.com)

David Thompson was drafted first overall by the Atlanta Hawks in 1975. He played nine seasons in the NBA. He was selected to four All-Star games. He even won the All-Star Game MVP in 1979. Thompson averaged 22.7 points and 4.1 rebounds for his career. He was Michael Jordan's role model growing up. It looked like he was well on his way to becoming one of the greatest ever players to grace the floor. He hit his peak in 1978 when he scored 73 points in the season finale against the Detroit Pistons.

The following season, he signed a record-breaking four million dollars over five years. That was the most any player had been paid at that moment. From that point on, injuries coupled with his substance abuse lead to his downfall. His career came to an end in the 1983/84 season when he severely injured his knee while partying at the notorious Studio 54 in New York. He was pushed down a flight of stairs while under the influence of drugs and alcohol.

Thankfully, with the encouragement of a pastor, he became a devoted Christian and reorganized his life. He even joined his old school North Carolina after thirty years and completed his degree in sociology.

Edited by
Yash Matange
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