An interesting tidbit of information came up while researching this article; no former NBA player has ever been convicted of murder, attempted murder, or conspiracy to commit murder. There are a bunch of manslaughters on here, but nothing in terms of an NBA player willingly killing someone, though one guy did try and kill one person and ended up killing another. Somehow that case was still only regarded as manslaughter and not first or second degree murder however.
Of the major team sports, they're the only league who can make this claim. Even MLB had Julio Machado, and the NHL had Mike Danton, who was convicted of conspiracy to commit murder.
One notable omission to this list is Allen Iverson. Fans of ESPN's documentary series 30 for 30 will note that Iverson once received a 15-year sentence for his part in a brawl inside a bowling alley. Allen was only 17 at the time, and the brawl led to no serious injuries. There are people on this list found guilty of horrible crimes that were sentenced to far less time than Iverson was.
Four months into his sentence, Iverson was pardoned and released however. This article is for players who found themselves inside a prison cell for much longer.
15 Charles Smith - 48 Months For Vehicular Homicide
As a Georgetown Hoya, the six foot PG earned Big East player of the year in 1988-89, but still went un-drafted. He also won a bronze medal as a member of the American Olympic team that went to Seoul in 1988. Smith caught on with the Boston Celtics from 1989 to 1991, but things took a pretty horrible turn in his life not long after.
In March of 1992, he was convicted of vehicular manslaughter and leaving the scene of an accident. He would serve 28 months in prison as a result of an accident that left two Boston University students dead.
After his release, Smith signed with the Minnesota Timberwolves as a 28 year old. He'd only get in eight games however. He would play in lower leagues and in Europe before retiring in 2001.
14 Mookie Blaylock - 3 Years For Vehicular Manslaughter
In 2013, former two-time NBA steals leader and All Defensive First Team member, Mookie Blaylock was involved in a serious automobile accident. His car veered into oncoming traffic and collided head on with another vehicle. Blaylock was seriously hurt, and was on life support for a time. He recovered, but a passenger in the other car did not.
Making matters worse was that Mookie had an outstanding DUI warrant in Georgia and his licence was suspended. It was determined he was not impaired at the time of the crash however. Blaylock did have a history of seizures, but it's unknown if this is what led to him veering into the oncoming lane.
Blaylock pled guilty to vehicular manslaughter and was given a sentence of three years in jail, a further four years on a suspended sentence, and then another eight years of probation.
13 Sly Williams - 5 Years For Kidnapping
In 2002, former New York Knick, Sly Williams avoided a possibly lengthier jail sentence when he pled guilty to kidnapping as part of a plea agreement. Heading into his trial he faced other charges, including sexual assault.
Williams was a 6'7 SF/PF, who played for the Knicks from 1979 to 1983. He had a couple of lousy seasons with the Atlanta Hawks after that.
As a 44 year old he pled guilty to holding a woman captive for over 24 hours with a knife. He was arrested after he attacked the woman for a second time months after the first attack. He was charged with burglary and kidnapping among other horrible things, but pled to kidnapping and the other charges went away.
Williams is out now and is said to be working as a health aide. He received some local coverage in New Haven for his participation in a local charity tournament.
12 Henry James - 5 Years For Selling Drugs To A Cop
Henry James was something of a journeyman player in the 1990s. After signing with the Cleveland Cavaliers in 1990, he would go on to play with six other teams throughout his career before landing back in Cleveland again for his final NBA season in 1997-98.
When basketball was over for James, he evidently had nothing to fall back on and had six children to feed. He was caught selling an estimated $750 worth of crack cocaine to someone who turned out to be an undercover officer. Making matters worse was that he also brought some of his kids with him in the car while he made the deal.
It was reported that all of his children were present at his sentencing, yet the judge still sentenced him to prison for five years after he pleaded guilty.
11 Jack Molinas - 5 Years For The 1951 Points-Shaving Scandal
Jack Molinas' NBA career was only 32 games old when he was banned for life as a result of his role in the 1951 NCAA points shaving scandal. Molinas had been a key figure in the scandal, serving as a go-between for the mob and players they wished to bribe.
While the NBA banned Molinas for life, the courts were a little more lenient. They handed him a ten to 15 year prison sentence for his role, but Molinas was out in just five years.
Eventually the mob sentenced Jack to a worse sentence, death. In 1975, Molinas was murdered in what was said to have been a mob hit. Whether Molinas' murder was due to his involvement in the point-shaving scandal or other mob-related activities remains unknown.
10 Jay Vincent - 5.5 Years For Mail Fraud
Jay Vincent won the 1979 NCAA Men's Division 1 Tournament Championship along with Magic Johnson and the rest of the Michigan State squad. After that, he embarked on a nine-year NBA career from 1981-1990. For some reason, he then decided to run a mail fraud scam that conned victims out of $2 million.
He was convicted in 2011 for running a mail scam that charged people to join a "business". Victims were told they would become inspectors for a business called Foreclosure Bank Inspection. It was all a scam, and the victims were basically just mailing him their money.
Magic Johnson wrote a letter to the judge asking for leniency saying Vincent was truly remorseful for what he had done. Vincent was released a few months early, and his sentence was officially up in July of 2016.
9 Art Long - 7 Years, Weapons and Drug Charges Combo
Police raided former Seattle Supersonic Arthur Long's home in 2013, and found a lot of stuff! They found enough ecstasy to charge him with distribution, the same amount of marijuana, and just to make things fun, they also found a stolen handgun and an AK-47. Long was a busy guy!
He was given seven years, four years longer than he lasted in the NBA. Long went un-drafted but played for various smaller leagues until he was picked up by the Sacramento Kings in 2001. He had a good season in 2001-02, when he played 63 games for the Sonics, and started 27 of them. After struggling for playing time with the 76ers and then the Raptors, Long played overseas until 2010. When his pro-career ended he evidently said "time to be a drug kingpin!" and started his new career.
8 Billy Ray Bates - 8 Years For Robbing A Texaco Station
Billy Ray Bates is an amazing basketball story. He was one of those players who would delight fans with amazing dunks and bursts of scoring, but rarely helped his team out all that much.
He became an immediate fan favorite when he started his career in Portland however, enjoying three seasons there until he was eventually cut from the team. He took his game international after that, becoming a big star in the Philippines.
One night in 1998, Bates had no money and wanted some cocaine, a scenario which rarely yields positive results. He attacked a gas station clerk at knifepoint, and was found by police just a couple blocks away passed out on someone's lawn. He was sentenced to eight years, but got early parole in 2005. 18 months after he was paroled, a drug test came back positive for cocaine and he went back to prison until 2008.
7 Keon Clark - 8 Years For Weapons Charges
During his sentencing for weapons charges in 2013, Keon Clark said his alcohol abuse was so bad that he never played an NBA game while sober. He even said that he would often drink at halftime during games. That sort of explains why his NBA career fizzled out after five seasons.
After his NBA career concluded he got himself into some legal trouble. He was up on several charges, including weapons charges, a DUI, and drug possession. In 2006, Clark decided that boarding a bus bound for Houston was a better idea than standing trial, but U.S. Marshals were able to apprehend him before the bus left. The judge sentenced him to eight years in prison, which is two more years than he lasted in the NBA.
6 Darrell Allums - 9 Years For Robbing 14 Domino's Delivery Drivers
Darrell Allums was not a very good NBA player. He played three good years at UCLA though, and even played in the 1980 NCAA Men's Division I tournament final. His team was defeated by Louisville that year however. He only played one season in the NBA, with the Dallas Mavericks. The 6'9 power forward managed to get into 22 games in the 1980-81 season, but was released afterwards.
After basketball, Allums needed to make a living, so he turned to robbing Dominos delivery drivers, something most people turn to when in need of money.... For shame Darrell! Those costs are passed down to other consumers! He was convicted of robbing 14 such delivery persons in 1989, and sentenced to nine years in jail.
5 Tate George - 9 Years For Running A Ponzi Scheme
George played three years for the Nets, and another for the Bucks before calling it a career in 1997.
In 2013, George was found guilty of running a Ponzi scheme. For those unfamiliar with Ponzi schemes, they're actually quite simple. The schemer recruits people to invest money with them, then once they do, they're sent statements which indicate the investments are making money. Problem is, there usually are no investments to speak of, the guy has just taken the investors money and sent them fake statements. If someone cashes out their investments, the schemer just uses the money they get from future investors. Often, nobody finds out about the scheme until the schemer is dead.
When the market crashed a few years back however, it exposed several ponzi schemes, including George's. He was sentenced to nine years and ordered to pay back $2.5 million.
4 William Bedford - 10 Years For Transporting Marijuana
Yikes, they did not go easy on William Bedford.
William Bedford was sentenced to ten years in prison for transporting marijuana in 2003. He was released early however, having been paroled in November of 2011.
Bedford played six seasons in the NBA from 1986 to 1993. He was drafted sixth overall by the Phoenix Suns, but he never really lived up to his potential. At seven feet tall, running drugs seemed an unlikely next career move for Bedford, but it's evidently the one he chose.
The first time he was arrested was in 2001, where he was caught smuggling 25 pounds of marijuana. He avoided jail for that arrest, and the next one, but the courts tend to get a little bit stricter on someone's third offence, and he was given a decade behind bars.
3 Tom Payne - 15 Years To Life For Multiple Assaults
The first ever African American to play basketball for the University of Kentucky, Tom Payne, is now serving 15 years to life in prison.
After finishing his University career in Kentucky, Payne was drafted by the Atlanta Hawks in 1971. His first season ended suddenly when he was arrested in connection with several sexual assaults from the Atlanta area. He would later be charged with more sexual assaults in relation to attacks that had previously occurred in Kentucky.
Three years after being paroled in 1983, he was caught in the act of sexually assaulting another woman and sent back to jail. He hasn't been out since. In 2000, he was let free by a Californian judge, but was immediately picked up by the state of Kentucky for violating his previous parole. He was sentenced to 15 years to life, and is still in prison today at 66 years of age.
2 Javaris Crittenton - 23 Years For Manslaughter
Javaris Crittenton is believed to have joined the Crips not long after being drafted by the Lakers in 2007. It's unclear if his Lakers contract allowed him to also join a street gang. One would imagine management would not be happy with the move.
Crittenton only lasted four seasons in the NBA. His career was hurt after being involved in a locker-room incident while a member of the Washington Wizards. Gilbert Arenas and Crittenton are alleged to have had loaded guns in the locker-room, resulting in in Javaris pleading guilty to a gun possession charge.
In August of 2011, Crittenton was charged with manslaughter in connection with the death of a 22 year old woman. It's believed he was shooting at a member of a rival gang, but hit the victim instead. He pled guilty to voluntary manslaughter and was handed 23 years in prison.
1 "Fast" Eddie Johnson - Life Sentence For Multiple Sexual Crimes
Somebody really should have slowed "Fast Eddie" down long before he was finally put away in prison for life.
Johnson played ten years for the Atlanta Hawks. He was a 2x All-Star, having earned the honors in 1980 and 1981. The cocaine craze of the 1980s didn't help his NBA career, as he started to go downhill fast. After numerous suspensions for his drug problems, he checked into rehab in 1986. He failed to follow through on his treatment however, and the NBA finally banned him for life the following year.
Johnson continued to get in problems with the police for various charges over the next two decades, but in 2006 his crimes took a darker turn. He was arrested for touching an underage person, and charged with sexual assaulting someone else. He was convicted in 2008 and sentenced to life without parole.