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In basketball, a competitor should have the ability to deliver a fantastic show, if it be using absolute talent, work ethic, or drive to be successful. This is a particularly daunting task considering the sheer fragility of a player’s mentality. Often times in the sports world today, a player’s mindset is so fragile that it could readily alter their playing style. Whether it completely deteriorates or slightly alters their ability, their careers, and lives, are forever altered by their experiences. Here are five former NBA stars and how their experiences changed their lives from that point on.
Kermit Washington
An All-American during his collegiate career at American University, Kermit Washington would have looked forward to an exciting NBA career. He was selected with the fifth overall pick in the 1973 NBA Draft by the Los Angeles Lakers, who were coming off their second consecutive trip to the NBA Finals. Although he struggled to stand over normal his first two seasons, he started to emerge during the subsequent two, setting career highs in points and rebounds during his fourth year. However, during his fifth season, an on-the-court incident would change his career and life forever. The Lakers was involved in notable on-the-court physical entanglements during the first 1977-78 season, and Washington was known for his fierce devotion towards his teammates. It’s believed these cases caused Washington’s career-changing game, on December 9, 1977 against the Houston Rockets. When the Lakers missed a shot, Washington, called a strong rebounder, pursued the ball. Then things grew physical. Washington’s Lakers teammate and Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame inductee Kareem Abdul-Jabbar began fighting with the Rockets’ Kevin Kunnert (who caught the rebound instead of Washington), and Washington stayed away from the fight till Abdul-Jabbar and Kunnert broke up the fight. He then started fighting Kunnert until Abdul-Jabbar caught Kunnert in an effort to break up the fight, only to have Kunnert struck by Washington. Believing that Tomjanovich, who had a reputation as a peacekeeper who rarely fought, was attempting to attack himWashington punched Tomjanovich into the nose. As Tomjanovich fell to the hardwood and immediately bled, the arena fell silent. Although Tomjanovich was able to walk off the court, he then was diagnosed with a broken skull, jaw, and nose. He also had bled internally and spinal disc herniation so acute that spinal fluid leaked into his mouth. Although Tomjanovich recovered, his playing style was never the same, and by 1981, he had retired after only eleven years in the NBA. As for Washington, a tag as the man who nearly killed Rudy Tomjanovich would haunt him for the rest of his career. He was suspended for the ensuing 26 Lakers games, and the Lakers constantly received mail for lovers that berated Washington. On December 27, he was traded to the Boston Celtics, only to be traded to the San Diego Clippers in 1978, and then to the Portland Trail Blazers in 1979. Feeling that he was readily welcomed by fans and teammates, Washington decided to return his attention to the game. In 1980 he was voted into the NBA All-Star Game. He was also voted to the first of 2 consecutive appearances on the NBA All-Defensive Second Team. He retired in 1982, but returned for a short comeback in 1987 with the Golden State Warriors. His post-NBA life since his retirement has been embattled by the negative attention stemming from the 1977 fight.
Magic Johnson
“Magic” is not this legendary NBA player’s legal name. His real name was Earvin Johnson, but his nickname”Magic” is well-deserved. Selected with the first overall pick by the Los Angeles Lakers in the 1979 NBA Draft, Johnson was entering the prime decades of the historic Lakers franchise. Eventually,”Magic” had it made. Not only was he a member of the five Lakers teams that won NBA Championships throughout the 1980s, but also left his mark as an individual player. Voted into the NBA All-Star match 10-plus times, while also labeled as NBA Most Valuable Player three times, he led the league is assists 4 seasons and led the league in steals two seasons. Furthermore, he was named NBA Finals MVP in three of the Lakers’ five victories. At this point,”Magic” was well-deserving of his title, as he was apparently a man with superhuman powers who could dominate every time he stepped on to the court. But in 1991, the year after he was named NBA MVP the next time, his life was forever altered. A medical examination proved that Johnson, who was in his twenties, had contracted Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), a serious disease which decelerates the immune system and makes the host vulnerable to other diseases. Johnson chose to announce his intention to retire from the NBA to concentrate on his health, as he had contracted a serious illness that could have threatened his life. It remains unknown about what is the obvious source of Johnson’s condition. Johnson’s final game before going into retirement was the 1992 NBA All-Star Game. Even though several players opposed his entry into the game, fearing the spread of his disease, Johnson played and was crowned the game’s MVP, before he was emotionally applauded by players on both sides for his many successful years of service to the league. But very soon after, he was appointed a member of the historical 1992 Team USA Olympic Basketball team, which also featured Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing, Scottie Pippen, Larry Bird, and many others. Following their illustrious Olympic journey, Johnson went into retirement, allegedly for good. At last, in 1996, he returned as a player to the Lakers, averaging a decent 14.3 points per game in 32 appearances before retiring a last time. Since retiring, Johnson started the Magic Johnson Foundation to provide for those battling HIV like him. He has also pursued business ventures such as being an owner of the Lakers, while also working as an NBA expert analyst. As well, he has received the highest honor of any basketball player: Induction into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Overall, the life of”Magic” was forever changed after his HIV diagnosis. Before his diagnosis, it did not look like his career would end like how it did. However, Johnson made the decision to retire (the first time) to concentrate on his health while still in his prime. Though he remains today in great health and great hope, both his career and his life decisions were shaken, even to the least bit, by his HIV diagnosis.
Michael Jordan
Nicknamed”Air Jordan” because of his ability to jump and almost fly, Michael Jordan is possibly the most decorated NBA figure of all-time. From the start of his career when he was the third overall pick in the 1984 NBA Draft, he showed promise and talent while spending his career with the Chicago Bulls, which was one of the anonymous teams in the NBA before his arrival. During his first nine NBA seasons (1984-93) Jordan was an NBA All-Star eight times, including one crown as All-Star Game MVP. He was likewise NBA Defensive Player of the Year in 1988. From 1987 to 1993, he was the NBA scoring leader, and NBA steals leader in 1988, 1990, and 1993. At the same time, he was NBA Most Valuable Player in 1988, 1991, and 1992. Additionally, he won the Bulls three division titles in 1991, 1992, and 1993, which were the exact years the Bulls ascended to become NBA Champions. The Bulls, who had won only 1 division title in their 25 pre-Jordan seasons, were blessed to have him on their roster and dreamed of him being a longtime Bull. Unfortunately, everything changed for the scoring winner Jordan in 1993. His father, James Jordan, had been driving on a highway in North Carolina when he was attacked by two teenagers, who murdered James Jordan before evading the scene. Police managed to track down the suspects, who were identified as Daniel Green and Larry Demery and later convicted of murder and imprisoned. For Michael Jordan, the news was shocking because his father had been very close to him. Shortly after hearing about the incident, Jordan announced his retirement from the NBA, to focus on other aspects more important than the match to him. He revealed that the death of his father opened greater priorities to him than his role with the Bulls and the NBA. But immediately after retiring, he chose to become a professional baseball player, as his father had seen him as a baseball player as a child. But after a brief and unspectacular career in baseball, Jordan chose to go back where he belonged: Basketball. Almost immediately after returning to the NBA, Jordan picked up where he left off with NBA superstardom. The Bulls ended up winning three more division titles as well as NBA Championships in the years 1996, 1997, and 1998. He was named NBA MVP two more times, in 1996 and 1998. Jordan once again retired in 1998. Now Jordan has pursued several business ventures, including being an owner of the NBA’s Charlotte Bobcats. He’s been inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, and remains today among the most prolific basketball figures of all-time. However, his career and life were shaken, even to the slightest bit, by the death of his father. After his dad died,”Air Jordan” forever needed to carry the idea in his mind he will need to live the remainder of his life without his dad. But he managed to keep his love of the game as a top priority, and ascended to become possibly the most iconic basketball figure in our heads.
Dennis Rodman
Nicknamed”The Worm” because of his agility on the court as well as his utterly ferocious defensive play, Dennis Rodman found his niche in containing opposing players from scoring opportunities, thus highlighting himself as one among the best defensive players in NBA history. The Pistons at the time were nicknamed the”Bad Boys” at the time for their rough defensive play. Within a matter of years,”The Worm” was an icon to the Pistons. He had been named NBA Defensive Player of the Year in 1990 and 1991. He was also an NBA All-Star in 1990 and 1992. He was likewise called to five NBA All-Defensive First Teams from 1989 to 1993. In 1992 and 1993, he led the league in rebounds. He also helped the Pistons to three branches names, including two seasons, in 1989 and 1990, where they ascended to become NBA Champions. With great physical skill and powerful motive to keep opposing players with as few scoring chances as possible, it seemed like”The Worm” would be a lifelong Poor Boy in Detroit. However, between 1992 and 1993, Rodman would undergo a series of traumatic events that would change his personality and outlook on the NBA permanently. In 1992, Pistons head coach Chuck Daly resigned his position. This was difficult for Rodman as he had seen Daly as more than a trainer to him. The next year, Rodman’s wife Annie Bakes divorced from him, which added further tension to Rodman. In this period Rodman pondered committing suicide. But then ultimately decided that he had been unhappy mainly because he was exhibiting a shy personality which didn’t show his true colours, and wished to be happy exhibiting his true character. Ahead of the 1993-94 season, Rodman was traded to the San Antonio Spurs, where he began exhibiting his new personality. He regularly dyed his hair and shaved his head. In addition, he became notorious for regularly getting into scuffles with other people on the court. Rodman’s stint in San Antonio lasted only two years. Even though he was NBA rebounding leader both of those years, he failed to make it to the NBA All-Defensive First Team, as his time in San Antonio was characterized primarily by bizarre behavior. However, his career returned to the high point in 1995 when he was traded to the group that he had perhaps despised the most during his time as a Detroit Piston: The Chicago Bulls. The Bulls had, in the wake of 1990s, had pushed aside the energy of Rodman and the remainder of the Detroit Pistons and won themselves their first three NBA titles. But their dynasty appeared to subdue following the 1993 retirement of habitual Bulls scoring star Michael Jordan. But 1995 was the year it came back, with Rodman playing the most iconic fashion he had since his days with the Pistons. Although he continued to display obscene behavior on the court with his hair and struggles on the court, his role in their time was highlighted by his fourth, fifth, and sixth consecutive rebounding title and his feeding to the bulls their fourth, fifth, and sixth division title and their fourth, fifth, and sixth NBA Championship. But following his NBA career, he landed in multiple altercations with the public due to his obscene behavior. He has been arrested multiple times for suspected charges like assault and driving under the influence of alcohol. He has also checked into drug rehabilitation after several drunken antics, including an instance where he entered rehab after an erratic scuffle on the popular reality show The Celebrity Apprentice. In general, his life was forever changed following the calendar year 1993. His life on the court in addition to off the court was not the same. Although he managed to maintain his title as a powerful player, he no longer showed the humility and calmness that was with him as a Detroit Piston. One can simply examine the calendar year 1993 and say that it is the reason for Dennis Rodman as we understand him.
Latrell Sprewell
This is an example of a player whose potential as a player was sadly overshadowed permanently by a negative altercation that happened early in the career. The Milwaukee native had a school career that caught the attention of the Golden State Warriors leading office in the early 1990s. Sprewell was voted to the NBA All-Rookie Second Team in 1993. But that was only the start of the party, as Sprewell would create back-to-back All-Star stints in 1994 and 1995, before coming back in 1997. Furthermore, in 1994 Sprewell was named a member of the All-NBA First Team and NBA All-Defensive Second Team after starting in all 82 regular-season games and posting career highs in rebounds per game and steals per game. But the romance between Sprewell and the Warriors stopped abruptly, following an incident the Bay Area front office will never forget. In a December 1997 clinic, head coach P.J. Carlesimo reportedly criticized Sprewell’s passing, and allegedly received a threat from Sprewall in what looked like a warning sign. When Carlesimo then approached Sprewell, Sprewell resorted to grabbing Carlesimo to a chokehold and threatening to kill him. Within ten seconds, multiple teammates had begun pulling them apart. Sprewell was then criticized by Carlesimo once more, responding by punching Carlesimo’s face. The incident quickly spread across the NBA, becoming an object of uproar among players, officials, and fans. Within a matter of hours, Sprewell’s contract was terminated by the Warriors (and what might have been 3 years and $23.7 million) and Sprewell was suspended from the NBA for the rest of the 1997-98 NBA season. While Sprewell’s standing had received a permanent scar, he was able to slice his playing style back together, returning to the All-Star match in 2001 as a member of the New York Knicks. While his playing style appeared unscathed, his still aching standing hit another low point, when he reportedly expressed public outrage toward a 3-year, $21 million contract offer to extend him outside the last year of his Timberwolves contract. He claimed that the $21 million would not be enough to feed his family in a statement that the NBA fanbase deemed as blatant. As a result, he wouldn’t be resigned following his final year at the Twin Cities turned out to be his final year in the NBA. Since his mercurial NBA career ended, Sprewell has struggled financially and legally. Between 2007 and 2008 he’d make headlines after a his $1.3 million property was repossessed and his two homes were foreclosed. Furthermore, he was sued by the mother of his children for an estimated $200 million and was barred from custody of his children. He has also struggled with the negative reputation that has stemmed from his NBA woes. In 2010, he was rated as #8 on Bleacher Report’s article Hi Haters: The 15 Most Hated NBA Players of All Time.
“It requires a lifetime to build a good reputation, but you can lose it in a moment”. – Will Rogers.
This popular quote has been extensively utilised in modern culture, meant to show that ruining something like a reputation isn’t a difficult thing to do, but building it is no simpler. Just like that, NBA players take enormous responsibility. Any sport is a minefield of emotion, and emotion without obligation can easily ruin a career and reputation. But occasionally, emotion is hard to control, as it is as fast as thought itself. But bottom line, a game is like juggling balls. As soon as you take a moment when juggling even to have a sneeze, you may lose track of the balls. Even though you’re able to regain control, it is much simpler to keep control in the first place as a way to stop the flying juggling balls in your own control.
NBA Players Who Experienced Life-Changing Events

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