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Top 10 NBA Players Who Ruined Their Career Because Of Drugs

Fadeaway World

Fadeaway World

Every now and then we hear about a new player who is set to be the next big thing, but sadly, it’s impossible for everyone to be the next big thing. Some stories do not end how everyone thinks they will. For every LeBron James, there are at least ten who will not make it for one reason or another.

Every person on Earth has something that they find addictive, but most people find a way to handle it and live their lives accordingly, while others simply do not. When your weaknesses are drugs and alcohol, it makes it harder to fulfill your goals. In this article, we will discuss the best players who were unable to make it into the legendary status, because they were consumed by drugs.

10. Josh Howard


This 6 ft 7 shooting guard from North Carolina, showed great potential when growing up at the Hargrave Military Academy, which you would think would make a more stern person when talking about illegal substances. He went to Wake Forest College where he was able to guide them to their first championship in 41 years and was crowned as the Atlantic Coast Conference best player in 2003.

He was drafted by the Dallas Mavericks as the 29th pick of the first round of the 2003 draft. He had an Ok career where he played 507 regular season games and started 403 of them. He also played for the Washington Warriors and the Utah Jazz in his career but never lived up to the hype behind him. He is a known advocate for Marijuana and it brought him more than one problem during his career.

9. John Lucas II

CLEVELAND, UNITED STATES:  Cleveland Cavaliers head coach John Lucas watches from the sidelines during the second quarter against the Miami Heat on 24 November, 2001 at Gund Arena in Cleveland, OH.   Cleveland defeated Miami 100-96 in overtime. AFP PHOTO DAVID MAXWELL (Photo credit should read DAVID MAXWELL/AFP/Getty Images)

Photo credit should read DAVID MAXWELL/AFP/Getty Images

Curiously enough, our ninth placed player is also a North Carolina native. Lucas was a 6 ft 3 point guard who started turning heads by the time he was a freshman in college, where he was able to get into the ACC first team three years in a row while playing for Maryland. It even made him the number 1 pick in the 1976 draft, where he went to the Houston Rockets.

He played fourteen years in the NBA and was even able to go with the Rockets to the NBA Finals in 1986, where they lost to the Boston Celtics. After that season, it was released to the public that he had a problem with cocaine and alcohol and while some of his teammates were banned from the league, he agreed to submit to an anti-drug and anti-alcohol program in order to keep playing. His career scoring high of 17.5 points was after that treatment, so we can only wonder how his career would have been had he not been an addict.

8. Larry Sanders

Milwaukee Bucks center Larry Sanders takes court against the Denver Nuggets in the fourth quarter of the Nuggets' 110-100 victory in an NBA basketball game in Denver on Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)  ORG XMIT: OTKDZ164

AP Photo/David Zalubowski

For our eight spot, we have a much more recent case of wasted talent. Sanders is a 6 ft. 11 power forward from Florida, who went to the Virginia Commonwealth University, where he was named the CAA defensive player of the year two years in a row. He has drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks as a 15th overall pick in the 2010 draft.

In April of 2014 was the first time he had trouble with the NBA authorities when he tested positive for Marijuana use and it all started to go down for him. In the 2014-15 season, he had another positive and was suspended for ten games in January 2015. After that, he was released from his contract and underwent treatment for his addiction. In 2017 he signed with the Cavaliers, so he can still change his story since he is only 28.

7. Michael Ray Richardson


Sometimes a point guard, sometimes a shooting guard, the Texas native showed potential from a very early age while playing for the University of Montana. The Knicks made him the fourth overall pick in the 1978 draft. He has three stints in the NBA, which started with four years for the Knicks, one with the Warriors and three for the Nets.

His NBA career ended in 1986 when he failed a drug test and was banned from the league. Two years later he was reinstated but decided to keep playing outside of the US, where he had been playing after the ban. If he did not have the trouble with drugs that he had, he might had even been a Hall of Famer.

6. Keon Clark


An Illinois native, Clark is one of the lesser known players on our list, but his position on it is because of how he even admitted to maybe never having played a single game sober while in the NBA, a consequence of him being an alcoholic.

He was drafted as the 13th overall pick by the Orlando Magic in the 1998 draft but was subsequently traded to the Denver Nuggets. He lasted only three years for the Nuggets and was traded to the Toronto Raptors, Sacramento Kings and Utah Jazz, where he stayed only for one year each. He then retired from the NBA, but his troubles didn’t end there, as he was charged with 8 years of prison in 2013 for weapon charges.

5. O.J. Mayo

BOSTON, MA - FEBRUARY 25:  O.J. Mayo #3 of the Milwaukee Bucks looks on during the third quarter against the Boston Celtics at TD Garden on February 25, 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

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Another more recent case, the 28-year-old West Virginia shooting guard started turning heads when he was a freshman at the University of Southern California where he went for only one year waiting for the next NCAA season to start, taking only two classes in the process. He did not come back for his sophomore year but decided to enter the 2008 draft.

He was drafted third overall in 2008 by the Minnesota Timberwolves but was later drafted to the Memphis Grizzlies. In January 2011 he was banned for ten games after failing a drug test and ended his season early. He also played for the Mavericks and the Bucks, but on July 1st of 2016, he was banned from the NBA for two years for another drug violation. He is eligible for reinstatement in 2018, so he still has some room for improvement.

4. Shawn Kemp


Born in Indiana, Kemp showed promise from his time as a power forward for the Concord High School in his native Elkhart. In his senior year he was considered as one of the top five players in the whole nation and even led his team to the state championship in 1989, ending his stint there as the all time top scorer.

He declared himself eligible for the NBA draft after having some trouble finding a college that suited him and was subsequently drafted by the Seattle Supersonics as the 17th overall pick.

He became a six time NBA All Star from the year 1993 through 1998, but in 2002 his season ended early with having to go through drug rehabilitation. After having many drug related episodes in the following years, he was never able to come back to the NBA, ending his career in Italy.

3. Eddie Griffin

MINNEAPOLIS - OCTOBER 3:  Eddie Griffin  #41 of the Minnesota Timberwolves poses for a portrait during Media Day on October 3, 2005 at the Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  NOTICE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and /or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement:  Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2005 NBAE (Photo By David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images)

Photo By David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images

One of the saddest stories in this list, the Philadelphia native started showing promise with a standout career at the Roman Catholic High School in his city. He enrolled into Seton Hall University in New Jersey where he was named freshman of the year, but following a fight with a teammate, he left the school and declared himself NBA eligible.

Because of his attitude, he was relegated to the seventh pick in the 2001 NBA Draft and was chosen by the New Jersey Nets, who immediately traded him to the Houston Rockets. During his career, he struggled with alcoholism, and the 6 ft 10 power forward suffered a fatal crash in August of 2007 where he rammed his car into a moving train and was found to be three times over the alcohol limit, which ended his life at only 25 years old.

2. Len Bias


Another sad story, Bias was surely going to be an NBA Star but his story ended early as he struggled with a drug problem. He started turning heads during his college career, at the University of Maryland, where even though he was considered to be undisciplined, he was named the ACC’s Player of the Year twice.

He was considered to be the most complete forward in the 1986 class and was drafted by the Boston Celtics as the second overall pick that year. He was never able to wear a Celtics shirt because he had a seizure and died of cardiac arrhythmia due to his use of cocaine.

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1. Lamar Odom


The most prolific player in this list, Odom started his basketball career playing for the St. Thomas of Aquinas high school team, where in his senior year he even was named a player of the year by Parade. He went to the University of Nevada at Las Vegas but he had trouble with prostitution which lead him to leave the school for the University of Rhode Island but could not play in his first season. In 1999 he led the Rams to a championship and made himself eligible for the draft that year.

He was the fourth overall pick of that year and was chosen by the Los Angeles Clippers. His stint at the Clippers was plagued by suspensions due to Marijuana use and they subsequently sold him to the Miami Heat. He also played with the Lakers and the Mavericks and even won two rings for the Lakers, but he was found out to have been struggling with addiction throughout all of his career. In 2015 he was found unconscious at a brothel while being high on cocaine and viagra, which put him in a coma and he is still trying to recover from his addictions.