The 'High' Flyers: 5 NBA careers destroyed by drugs & alcohol
"When it's played the way it's supposed to be played, basketball happens in the air; flying, floating, elevated above the floor, levitating the way oppressed peoples of this earth imagine themselves in their dreams." - John Edgar Wideman
At the highest level, Basketball is a lot about being higher than others. The players stand higher than most people, jump higher, run at a higher speed, burn calories at a higher rate, score with higher efficiency, defend at a higher intensity and earn paychecks which are way, way higher than almost everyone else.
Sports analysts and fans alike love to talk about the players who have reached the highest of the highs in their career and where they'll end up on the Mt. Rushmore of NBA players. Michael Jordan, Wilt Chamberlain, LeBron James, Tim Duncan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Shaquille O' Neal, Kobe Bryant; these are some of the names that come up when we talk about the players with the highest career arc.
However, there's another group of NBA players. These are the players who decided that reaching lofty career highs was less important than getting high. These five 'high' flyers had potential to have great careers but they ended up smoking or drinking it. Let's roll our, ahem, sleeves and check them out.
#5 Ty Lawson
In 2009, during his junior season as a North Carolina Tar Heels player, Ty Lawson won the NCAA championship and the Bob Cousy Award (given to the best point guard of the season). During the Championship game, he also set a record with 8 steals against Michigan State.
He was drafted 18th overall by the Denver Nuggets in the the 2009 draft and served as a backup for Chauncey Billups for a year and a half. Once Billups was traded to the New York Knicks, Lawson really came into his own. On 9 April 2011, he made his first ten 3-point shots in the game and finished with a career-high 37 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists.
In the 2012-13 season, Lawson averaged 21.3 points and 8.0 assists and led the Nuggets to the playoffs (where they lost to the Golden State Warriors). For the 2013-14 season, he led the team in points, assists and steals. In the 2014-15 season, the Nuggets only had a 30-52 record but Lawson had a great season with a career-high 9.6 assists per game.
He was traded to the Houston Rockets in the next season and then the downfall began. He was suspended for a total of five games by the NBA for separate instances of driving under influence of alcohol. He was waived by the Rockets in a buyout agreement. An year ago, he had also been sentenced to a month at a residential rehabilitation center. He has been arrested three times for driving under influence (DUI).
A 29-year-old Ty Lawson was soon out of the NBA after brief stints with the Indiana Pacers and the Sacramento Kings. He now plays for the Shandong Golden Stars of the Chinese Basketball Association.