If you’re on the outside looking in, NBA superstardom seems like an incredible life filled with money and fame. But for some players, their superstar status can be a heavy burden, an invisible cross to bear that the public is seldom aware of.
Too many professional athletes from every sport imaginable have fallen victim to poor choices and addictions, losing it all in the process. Take Vin Baker for example.
Vin Baker’s NBA career
Baker played in the NBA in the ’90s during the golden era of basketball alongside players like Michael Jordan and Reggie Miller. Baker was drafted in 1993 by the Milwaukee Bucks as the eighth overall draft pick.
He’s best known for his performance during the early years of his career. He spent four years in Milwaukee followed by five seasons on the Seattle Supersonics.
Baker might not have achieved the notoriety of his contemporaries like Jordan or Shaq, but at the height of his career he was an impressive player in his own right. He averaged 15 points, seven rebounds, and two assists per game over his 13 professional seasons, making him a solid offensive player.
Baker was a big, physical player. Standing at 6′ 11″ he was a force to be reckoned with at both center and power forward. He didn’t have the all-star numbers that some players boast, but during his time in Milwaukee and Seattle, he proved that he was an integral part of both teams’ offense. He was even a four-time consecutive all-star player and was named to the 2000 Olympic team.
Toward the end of his career, however, his stats took a nosedive. Baker returned after the 1999 NBA lockout weighing over 300 pounds. Until the end of his career in 2006, he averaged just three points per game and was promptly traded in between multiple teams. As it turned out, Baker was about to pay a terrible price for his fame.
Dark days for Vin Baker
Over his 13 years playing professional basketball, Baker earned a sizable fortune. A $93 million dollar fortune to be exact. But according to Business Insider, Baker was harboring a dark secret, one that would have a dramatic effect on the final years of his career, eventually costing him his fortune.
After the NBA lockout, Baker suffered from severe depression and began drinking to cope with his failing performance on the court. Before long, Baker had become dependent on alcohol to get through the day. His alcohol addiction quickly turned into gambling, leading to a drunk driving arrest while driving home from Foxwoods casino.
Most of Baker’s money evaporated in the year or two immediately following his retirement due to his addictions, but poor business decisions didn’t help matters at all. According to the Washington Post, Baker invested in a local fish restaurant to disastrous results.
Not only did he waste the remainder of his fortune trying to keep it afloat, but he rapidly went into debt, owing more than $1 million on the foreclosed property.
Rising from the ashes
Not everyone gets a second chance let alone a silver lining, but Vin Baker is a lucky man. After losing his fortune, he hit rock bottom and sought help. Today, Baker is a far different man than he was in 2007. After getting sober, the ex-NBA superstar went about picking up the pieces, assembling a much more humble picture in the process.
Baker moved back to his hometown of Saybrook, Connecticut and got a job working at the local Starbucks. Through hard work, dedication, and humility he was soon managing the location. That wasn’t the end of his basketball career though.
Baker involved himself in the sport on a much smaller scale. In 2011, he got a job working as an assistant coach for a high school team at St. Bernard’s. In 2014, he was tapped to play with Dennis Rodman as part of the eccentric star’s basketball diplomacy efforts in North Korea.
There’s a happy ending to Baker’s story after all. In 2019, he was hired as an assistant coach for the Milwaukee Bucks, a glorious homecoming to the NBA.
All stats courtesy of Basketball Reference