NBA players live nocturnal schedules during the season. They leave work late at night, and their body clocks are programmed that way for off days, too. They’re awake when going to the bar is one of the main leisure activities available, and their salaries allow them to afford it.
Opportunities certainly exist for players to drink too much.
And, of course, there are players naturally predisposed to alcoholism. For some, a conducive schedule isn’t a prerequisite for drinking too much.
Add it all up, and the NBA – like any business – has had its share of employees with drinking problems.
Greg Oden described himself as an “alcoholic” while he was in Portland, and Jordan Hill admitted drinking limited his production. Vin Baker is one of the most famous cases of alcoholism ruining a player’s career. Keith Closs has his own horror stories.
More players than we’ll ever know have had their careers significantly and negatively impacted by drinking.
But that doesn’t mean the league should abandon anyone who’s had a problem.
Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, via Kenneth Arthur of Rolling Stone:
We have a team psychologist who spends time with all of our guys. While he won’t divulge specifics, we do discuss whether or not there are red flags regarding a player’s personal, professional or social life. We’ve had a functioning alcoholic on the team in the past and we put together plans and programs to help him. We’ve had other issues when we have asked the player to leave the team.
Good for the Mavericks.
Teams invest millions in dollars of players, and too often, they’ve let the players sink or swim on their own. Alcoholism needn’t be a death sentence nor a career ender. It helps when someone with the disease has support, and credit the Mavericks for providing it.
Should teams have concerns about players with a history of drinking problems? Of course. But that concern shouldn’t override everything else.
I have no idea which player Cuban is referring to, but I’ll guess two things:
1. He benefitted in life from the Mavericks’ program to help him.
2. The Mavericks benefitted on the court from having him healthy.
I hope other teams are as proactive about helping their players, and there’s no reason they shouldn’t be. In the long run, everyone comes out ahead.