Robert Swift was a 7-foot-1 center who caught the eyes of scouts with both his size and his athletic ability. Swift was a hot commodity when he bypassed college to enter the 2004 NBA draft. Boston Celtics GM and President of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge said he was taking Swift with the 15th pick that season, but he had already been scooped up by the Seattle SuperSonics. Swift’s NBA life was short-lived and uneventful. Life after the NBA was much worse.
Robert Swift’s early basketball days
Robert Swift attended three different high schools. In his senior year at Bakersville High School, Swift averaged 18.8 points, 15.9 rebounds, and better than six blocks per game. He did so while being double- and triple-teamed all season.
He drew the attention of several big-time colleges. Swift committed to attend USC on a scholarship, but he was hearing talk that he was a definite first-round pick in the NBA. According to Sports Illustrated, Swift’s high school coach insisted he wasn’t ready for the NBA as did some of his family members.
Swift was tall at 7-foot-1, but he was frail. He was just 220 pounds and would be up against some of the big boys in the NBA like Shaquille O’Neal. Despite the concern, the opportunity to pass up being a first-round pick was too good to pass up. The Boston Celtics already told him he wouldn’t slip past them at No. 15. Swift was selected before Boston had a chance.
The beginning of Swift’s downfall
Robert Swift was selected by the Seattle SuperSonics with the No. 12 pick in the 2004 NBA draft. He signed a three-year deal worth $4.4 million. He was 18 and a millionaire with having stepped on an NBA court. His family had filed for bankruptcy for the second time and Robert took care of his parents, buying them a house.
Swift was clearly a project. He wasn’t ready to play, but he was Seattle’s center of the future. The pick caused some tension within the team with veteran Ray Allen saying, “At this stage in my career, I don’t want to watch somebody take a couple of years to develop before they can help us,” according to Sports Illustrated.
Swift played 16 games in his rookie season and didn’t average a point per game. In his second year, he played just 47 games due to an injury to his right knee. During the preseason heading into his third season, Swift tore his ACL and missed the entire year. In 2008, Swift tore his meniscus after just eight games. He played just 26 games after that.
Life after the NBA leads to arrest, foreclosure
Robert Swift was generous with his money. For friends and family, he was there to help, whether it was for a new car or college tuition. “If you add up all the money he gave to people who said they needed it, it’s astonishing,” said Dwight Daub, Seattle’s strength coach. “Wrong or right, that’s just who he is.”
In 2009, Swift and his girlfriend had a son, but his life quickly fell apart as he was cut by the team and his relationship failed and he was forced to pay $5,000 per month in child support. He grew out of shape, he drank, and eventually began snorting cocaine, according to Sports Illustrated. He developed an addiction and in 2014 he was using daily. Swift neglected his friends, family, and his child support payments. The bank sold his house that he as living in.
Swift refused to leave. His house was littered with bullet holes in the wall, maggots in the sink, piles and piles of dog feces. Eventually, Swift left, but moved in with his dealer. In 2015, Swift was arrested for an armed robbery, according to CBS Sports.
Swift got some treatment and began playing basketball again. In 2018, Swift was in Spain playing once again. He’s happier and hadn’t seen heroin since he got out of jail. Drugs are no longer on his mind. “It’s not an issue,” he told Sports Illustrated. “Ever since I got out of county [jail], I never looked back.”