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In his senior year at Memphis State University (now known as the University of Memphis), William Bedford dominated. The 7-foot center averaged nearly 18 points and 8.5 rebounds per game. He shot better than 58 percent from the floor. He was also part of what seems to be a very cursed 1986 NBA draft after being selected by the Phoenix Suns. Bedford spent more years in prison than he did in the NBA and is now turning his life around.

William Bedford’s NBA career

After playing three years at Memphis State University in the mid-1980s, William Bedford was selected by the Phoenix Suns with the sixth overall pick in the 1986 NBA draft. Bedford was coming off a very strong college season and the Suns were a good fit for the 7-foot center. Big-men Brad Daugherty and Chris Washburn had already been selected and Bedford was the next center to go.

Bedford struggled right out of the gate when he made the leap to the NBA. After shooting .584 from the floor as a senior in college, Bedford made just 39 percent of his field-goal attempts in his first year as a professional. He played in 50 games as a rookie, starting 18. He averaged 6.7 points per game in his first and only season with the Suns.

In June of 1987, Bedford was traded to the Detroit Pistons for a first-round pick. In his first season with the Pistons, Bedford played an average of 7.8 minutes per game. He appeared in 38 games, starting none of them. Bedford missed the following year to rehab from a substance-abuse problem and returned for the 1989-90 season where he averaged 2.8 points per game. He played four seasons in Detroit and closed out his career with a year in San Antonio that saw him play just 16 games. For his career, Bedford averaged 4.1 points and 2.4 rebounds per game.

Bedford does prison time

In 2001, William Bedford was stopped by police who found 25 pounds of marijuana in a car that belonged to Bedford’s parents, according to ESPN. Bedford had already been in jail five times for several drug-related offenses. “It was another mistake I got myself into,” said Bedford back then.

In 2004, Bedford was sentenced to prison for 10 years after pleading guilty to possession of cocaine with intent to distribute. Bedford said the financial shock of leaving life in the NBA to life in the real world hit him hard. He needed a way to try to make as much money as he could.

“It’s like you’re trying to live that same lifestyle,” Bedford told the Memphis Commercial Appeal in 2019. “Your checks not coming in anymore … In order to live that lifestyle as a professional athlete or entertainer, it takes a lot of money,” said Bedford. “So me, making the wrong decisions and choices … getting involved with some people that were involved with drugs.”

Bedford trying to clean up his act

William Bedford was released from federal prison in 2011 and has been working on making a better life for himself. He’s worked as a car salesman and enrolled in Memphis’ Manhood University, a six-week program that helps give guidance and equips men with life skills. He said it has been a blessing.

I don’t know if I was going for myself or for someone else,” Bedford told the Memphis Commercial Appeal. “I don’t know what I was looking for. Don’t know what I was trying to get out of it. I was just there. This one … some of the things they were sharing really touched home … A lot of stuff about being a man, the way you were treated growing up … whether it was the right way or the wrong way … and then some things that we took for granted and we didn’t do what our parents told us.”

Through Manhood University and his time in prison, Bedford has learned some valuable lessons. Those lessons, he hopes, will help him better his life.
“You’ve got to humble yourself … Obviously, there’s something that you’re not doing. You went wrong somewhere. You’ve been doing it your way so many times, try it another person’s way,” said Bedford. “My message is to not go backward after you’ve done your time.”


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