15 NBA Players Who Ruined Their Career Because Of Substance Abuse

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Some may think drugs and alcohol are synonymous with the flashy lifestyles of the sports and entertainment world. Especially when that athlete or celebrity is a living “rags to riches” story. You might think it’s easy for them to get caught up in the lavish lifestyles and partying or turn to a substance to deal with the pressures of a highly demanding career.

The NBA has seen a number of players succumb to their addictions. Ed Badger said the 1986 draft alone was “an unlucky draft for many teams” since various players selected this year went on to have drug problems. The consequences of violating the NBA’s drug use policy range from fines to suspensions to permanent bans. Sometimes, athletes can be eligible for reinstating but not always.

Regardless, addiction is no joke. It is not something to be laughed about or taken lightly. At its core, addiction can destroy not only the person with the addiction, but the people around them as well. It can also destroy the careers they’ve worked so hard to build. Some careers end before they begin. Some start phenomenally only to crash and burn. Here are 15 NBA players who ruined their careers because of substance abuse.

15. Lewis Lloyd

A 1987 United Press International article called Lewis Lloyd “a product of his environment.” He was born and raised in a Philadelphia ghetto and played his high school ball at the same school Wilt Chamberlain did. His spent his college years at Drake University and was drafted by the Golden State Warriors in the fourth round of the 1981 NBA Draft. He spent two seasons with the Warriors before moving to the Houston Rockets. In his four years with the Rockets, he averaged 15.5 points per game. In 1986, he was suspended for cocaine abuse with teammate Mitchell Wiggins. He rejoined the league in 1989 but retired later that year when it seemed like his lavish lifestyle, substance abuse and arrests had caught up with him.

14. David Thompson

It has been said (by Dan Issel) that if David Thompson had played in the NBA longer, he would be mentioned in the same breath as Michael Jordan. Hailing from North Carolina State, Thompson was drafted first overall in the 1975 NBA Draft by the Atlanta Hawks. Throughout his nine year professional NBA career, he was a four-time NBA All-Star, the 1979 All-Star Game MVP, averaged 22.7 points and 4.1 rebounds per game and was Michael Jordan’s role model growing up. All of the pressure eventually got to him and he turned to alcohol and drug use. The nail in his coffin was one night at Studio 54. Under the influence of drugs and alcohol, Thompson was pushed down a flight of stairs. When describing the incident he said, “I had the ability to be one of the greatest basketball players in the history of the game and I blew it.”

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