Steve Francis is almost an NBA legend at this point, a judder on the journey to the modern-day NBA. In 2018, there’s no doubt that many basketball fans do not remember just how big a deal “Stevie Franchise” was at the dawning of Allen Iverson’s NBA. Now, Francis is 41 years old and hasn’t played a game in the Association since December of 2007.
Today, he’s back.
In a captivating feature posted to The Players’ Tribune, Francis detailed the story of his life and his journey from working the block as a crack dealer in Washington D.C. to getting drafted into the NBA without any D1 offers, and despite playing what he says was only two games of high school basketball.
Francis titled his article “I Got a Story to Tell” and in it he recounts some pretty heavy-hitting and incredible plot twists, the kind you might not even believe were real in a movie.
In a story apparently untold in full to the public before, Francis said that he went from helping to deal drugs on the corner, to playing AAU ball, then quitting completely after his mother died. Francis was then convinced by his AAU coach to keep on going. Franics was eventually picked up by a junior college, finally transferring to Maryland before making it to the NBA.
The classic Francis bluster is there — he talks about schooling everyone from Gary Payton to Shawn Marion — and there’s some great tidbits about his relationship with Hakeem Olajuwon.
Here’s Francis on finally heading to JUCO:
But my grandma convinced me that it’s what my mother wanted for me, and I just gave in. I got my GED, and my grandma gave me $400 and a plane ticket to Houston. The San Jacinto coaches picked me up at the same airport that the coaches at Houston had picked up Dream at when he came over from Nigeria. And honestly, I was probably just as shell-shocked as he was. It was 30,000 white people and your boy Steve. Total culture shock. But I finally had some stability. I had a bed. I had a roster spot. And with that in the bag, I’m telling you, I went out there and killed it.
Ask Shawn Marion. Go ahead and ask him. He was playing for Vincennes University at the time, and he was a juco All-American. He was supposed to be the guy. And we went up there to Indiana and I murdered him. I got a quadruple double on his ass. I remember when we both got to the NBA, we were laughing about it during some shootaround, and he told me that he’s actually got the VHS tape of the game somewhere at his house. The tape exists. For 20 years I’ve been asking Shawn where the hell that tape is, and he’s been ducking me.
SHAWN, WHERE’S THE TAPE?!
SHOW THE WORLD THE TAPE, SHAWN.
The whole article is worth a read, and it’s a stunning and heartbreaking one at that.
My real takeaway is how much influence an outlet like The Players’ Tribune has in allowing players of Francis’ age to tell us his unfiltered story. No doubt we’ll learn things about this era of the NBA some 10 or 20 years down the line from stars similar to Francis.
Update: A previous version of this article attributed a quote to Steve Francis that was intended to be a hypothetical. The quote has been changed.