Each of the four major sports leagues in North America are billion dollar enterprises, with the National Basketball Association sitting in third place in that regard, with an estimated yearly revenue of roughly $6 billion. The NBA has been around for just over 70 years now, and over that time, we have seen some pretty remarkable players come and go, players who for the most part, manage to go their entire careers without any sort of controversial actions. With that being said though, there are still some players, including superstar-level talent, who find themselves in trouble, so much trouble, that they sometimes find themselves in the back of a police vehicle, and later in the middle of a court room.
When you take away the skills, the notoriety, and the money, NBA players are ordinary just like the rest of us, which means that they do indeed have to abide by the same legal system as everyone else. If an ordinary person were to be arrested and appear in court, they would likely not make the news, unless they did something truly outrageous or horrific, but when it comes to a pro athlete like an NBA player, they will definitely find their name in the news, simply because athletes are treated like celebrities. The problem though, is that these players, along with coaches, and other league personnel, represent the NBA as a brand, no matter if they are active or in retirement, and every single arrest leaves the league tarnished and embarrassed, and this article will focus on the 15 most embarrassing arrests.
15. Charles Barkley – Don’t Throw Ice Cream At Sir Charles
It is true that great players are expected to win championships, but sometimes, great players are just not lucky enough to get a ring, and Charles Barkley is a perfect example of such a player. Barkley is rightfully viewed as one of the 50 best players of all time, and he has managed to make a very good living as an NBA analyst on TNT, but although he is a good person, he still found himself getting arrested twice during his playing days. Each of those arrests turned out to be embarrassing moments for the league, with the first arrest coming when he played in Phoenix in 1993, where he broke a man’s nose during an altercation following a game. His second arrest came in 1997, while playing for Houston, and it happened because he threw a man through a bar window after the man threw some ice cream at him.
14. Keon Clark – Didn’t Play A Single NBA Game Sober
There is no denying the fact that many pro athletes have had to deal with some form of addiction, it is just something that happens depending on your personal choices, and the amount of money you have. Keon Clark was a center who played in the NBA for parts of six seasons, and in 2006, two years after his final NBA game, he was hunted by US Marshals after failing to appear in court for weapons charges. Clark was eventually arrested, and in 2013, he was sentenced to 8 years in prison, but it was not the arrest itself that embarrassed the league. During his trial, Clark admitted to having both a drug and alcohol problem, and said that he never played a single NBA game while sober, which brings into question the league’s stance on abuse.
13. Jack Molinas – Fatal Gambling Issues
The world of sports is filled with entertainment, passion, and greatness, but just like everything else in life, there are people within the sports world who do something that is completely deplorable. There are three cardinal rules that no professional athlete is supposed to break: to not use banned substances in order to gain an unfair advantage over their opponent, to not gamble on any games they are a part of, and to not intentionally throw a game. Jack Molinas played pro basketball in the 1950s, and while in college, he was linked to a point-shaving scandal that nearly destroyed the entire NCAA, which would explain why he was caught gambling while in the NBA. Once he was caught, not only was Molinas banned from the league for good, he was also arrested for having a gambling connection with the mob, who killed him shortly after he was sent to prison.
12. Thabo Sefolosha – Getting In The Cops’ Way
Unlike everyone else on this list, Swiss guard Thabo Sefolosha is still an active member of the NBA, as he currently plays for the Utah Jazz, and in his 9 years in the league, he has proven to be a pretty reliable defender. While with the Atlanta Hawks in 2015, Sefolosha and teammate Pero Antic went to a New York nightclub, where they were both arrested for getting in the way of police who were called to the scene when fellow NBA player Chris Copeland was stabbed during an altercation. Sefolosha was not involved with the stabbing, but was arrested by police, who ended up breaking his leg, for charges of obstruction, disorderly conduct, and resisting arrest. In the end, Sefolosha was acquitted of all charges, and sued the NYPD for $50 million in damages, with both sides agreeing to a $4 million settlement.
11. Mookie Blaylock – Taking The Life Of A Mother
The Nets, Hawks, and Warriors all have one thing in common on this list: the fact that point guard Mookie Blaylock had once played for them. After a pretty decent 13-year career, Blaylock played his final game in 2002, and for a decade, no one really heard from him, even though he had to deal with several drug and DUI charges. But in 2013, his name landed in the news when he was involved in a head-on collision that resulted in the death of a mother of five. Blaylock may have been sober at the time of the accident, but he did have outstanding warrants, and was driving with a suspended license, which is why he was arrested and then sentenced to 15 years for vehicular manslaughter, of which he only served three years due to a plea deal.
10. Dennis Rodman – A Ton Of Arrests
Over the past couple of years, Dennis Rodman has become one of the only Americans to actually praise the dictator of North Korea, praise that comes thanks to the fact that Rodman has always been treated well by him due to the time he spent with the Chicago Bulls. Rodman really did make the best of his NBA career, winning a total of five championships between the Bulls and Pistons, but he has found himself in a heap of legal trouble since 1999. Police have been called to his home more than 70 times, and he has been arrested several times, including two arrest for driving while under the influence, and two arrests for domestic violence, one of which occurred while he was married to Carmen Electra, which was a fairly high profile embarrassment for the league at the time.
9. James Worthy – Caught With His Pants Down
James Worthy currently works as a TV analyst, but prior to that, he played in the NBA for 12 seasons, all of which were spent with the Lakers, where he managed to win three championships. Worthy is a deserving Hall of Famer who is still considered to be one of the 50 greatest players of all time, but aside from being a great player, he was also known for being a very good person. In truth, Worthy was considered to be a squeaky clean golden boy who could do no wrong, but in 1990, he embarrassed both himself and the league when he was arrested in Houston during a police sting operation in which he was caught with a prostitute. This ended with Worthy paying a $1,000 fine, while also being sentenced to one-year probation and 40 hours of community service, on top of the divorce papers served by his wife.
8. DeShawn Stevenson – Poor Rookie Chocies
Every single NBA player has to have a rookie season, which in most cases, is the hardest season they will ever have in their career, because of all the new found pressures and wealth that comes with being a pro athlete. 2001 was DeShawn Stevenson’s rookie season, after being drafted by the Utah Jazz, and during that season, news broke that Stevenson had relations with a woman, which would have been fine, if the woman had not been a 14-year-old girl. Apparently, Stevenson met the girl and brought her to his hotel room, where he got her drunk, and had consensual relations with her. It goes without saying that Stevenson was arrested and convicted, something he had to live with throughout the rest of his 12-year career.
7. Ruben Patterson – Nanny Problems
Ruben Patterson was a shooting guard who played for several teams over the course of his decade-long career, but it was the Portland Trail Blazers who kept him around the longest (2001-06). Patterson was never considered to be a good person, or a good teammate, and in 2001, he embarrassed both the Trail Blazers and the entire league when he was arrested for attempting to assault his family’s nanny, which led to him registering as a sex offender. Later in 2001, he was arrested again, this time for assaulting a man outside of a Cleveland night club, and a year later, he was taken into custody yet again, where he was charged with domestic abuse against his ex-wife. After all of that, it is shocking that Portland kept him around for another four seasons, even if you take into account the team’s unflattering “Jail Blazers” nickname and reputation for signing troublesome players in those days.
6. Charles Smith – Never Drive Drunk
The Boston Celtics are one of the NBA’s two most iconic and successful franchises, which means that the team has seen a lot of players come and go, some of whom are far more notable than others. One of the lesser known Celtics is former guard Charles Smith, who played for the team from 1989-91, and he never played in another NBA game following his arrest in 1991. On March 22 of that year, Smith got drunk and still decided to get behind the wheel of his car, and while driving, he hit two Boston University students, and preceded to flee the scene. Both students died, and Smith was arrested shortly after, where he was convicted of vehicular homicide, and sentenced to four-and-a-half years in prison.
5. Jayson Williams – Shotgun Showdown
Jayson Williams was a center who had a pretty decent career, with his best years coming with the New Jersey Nets, where he played for seven seasons (1991-97), but thanks to a broken leg, his career came to an abrupt end in 1999. That was not the end of Williams’ bad luck though, because on February 14, 2002, he made headlines when a limo driver was killed in his mansion after getting shot by a shotgun. Apparently, Williams was giving a tour of his home, and allowed some of the guests to play around with the weapon, which fired accidentally. This accident led to Williams paying the victim’s family $2.5 million, and he was later convicted on 4 counts of trying to cover up the shooting, which is why he was finally sentenced to a five-year prison sentence in 2010.
4. Allen Iverson – Jail Time? We’re Talking About Jail Time
Allen Iverson may be a former MVP who never managed to win a championship, but the lack of a ring does not take away from the fact that he is a deserving member of the Hall of Fame. Now, Iverson is known for being a superstar who managed to go bankrupt, but he has dealt with his own legal issues, including an arrest for participating in something called maiming by mob when he was just 17. That was not his most embarrassing arrest though, as he was also arrested in 2002 following his MVP season with the Philadelphia 76ers. That year, Iverson and his wife had issues, which led to him kicking her out of their home, but when he went looking for her afterwards, he ended up threatening two men with a gun, which led to him getting arrested for assault, terrorist threats, and weapon charges.
3. Kobe Bryant – Hotel Assault
Over the course of his career, Kobe Bryant won five championships, was named an All-Star 18 times, Finals MVP twice, and league MVP once, and he is also currently number 3 on the all-time points list. There is no doubt that Kobe was a superstar, who will go down as one of the best players in history, but off the court, he had problems staying faithful to his wife, which is ultimately what led to his arrest in 2003. While at a hotel in Colorado, Bryant met a 19-year-old employee, and according to her, he tried to assault her in his room. He was arrested shortly after, with the story making national headlines, and although he said everything was consensual, he settled with the woman out of court, but not before his reputation got ruined.
2. Tim Donaghy – Officiating Mess
We may hate them from time to time because of some of the blatantly stupid/bad calls they make during a game, but the truth is that referees are integral when it comes to sports, because they are the ones who need to enforce the rules on the field of play. With that being said though, referees have the ability to call a game a certain way in order to manipulate the outcome, whether it be who wins and who loses, or what the final score will be, an action that is most definitely illegal. Tim Donaghy was referee in the NBA for 13 seasons, and in 2007, he was arrested after the FBI learned that he was using his knowledge of the league to bet on games he was officiating, which landed him in prison for 15 months, with three years of supervised release. This arrest made the NBA look vulnerable, but more importantly, it heavily damaged the league’s reputation.
1. Eddie Johnson – Sentenced To Life
We have finally come to the end of the list, a spot where “Fast Eddie” Johnson definitely belongs, and the fact that he was named an All-Star twice, is absolutely revolting considering what he is currently in prison for. Johnson played in the NBA for 10 seasons, and for most of that time, he had a very bad cocaine addiction, which he did not try to fix, which is why the league decided to kick him out for good in 1987. Unfortunately, Johnson never got his life together, and ended up getting arrested over 100 times, including a 2006 arrest that saw him get arrested for burglary, battery, and underage assault. Two years later, he was convicted for all of those crimes, and is currently serving a life-sentence with no chance of parole.
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