Vin Baker became a symbol of all that is right with basketball. From a small shoreline Connecticut town, he became known for playing basketball in 1992. He was drafted by the Bucks in 1993 and became an All-Star by his second year.
He later joined the Seattle SuperSonics and in his first year with his new team, they won 61 games. He eventually became a member of Team USA in 2000. He was also handpicked by Micheal Jordan to be an early endorser of his sneaker brand, according to the LA Times.
At the height of his career, he felt not only so important but invincible. He even became sensitive to criticism while holding himself to the standards of players such as Michael Jordan.
“So along with that, my first thought was, I guess the next progression is I can party and hang out like I want to. It’s the spoils,” he said. “I’m an All-Star now in another conference on the best team in basketball. And this is during the Jordan era. It was like, I made it. Along with that came the celebration. And I celebrated and celebrated and celebrated almost every day.”
He started to lose grip on everything that he has built. He became an alcoholic and would even drink Bacardi Limón from a water bottle in the locker room. Not even a transfer to Boston Celtics changed his new lifestyle. His addiction even grew strong and he graduated to drinking Listerine.
He was released by the Celtics and was given additional chances to reform. He had a stint in New York, one in Houston and one with the Clippers. A couple of bad investment decisions started draining his accounts after he left the NBA. Not only that, he got arrested for drink-driving and lost homes. He quit smoking but was soon back to drinking Bacardi 151.
“The rock bottom for me wasn’t necessarily knowing and understanding that I couldn’t get back in the league. It was more than that,” Baker said. “And I mean this wholeheartedly. I knew I felt abandoned by God.”
He soon discovered that he had lost everything — his money and fame. He soon became a burden on his family. According to the Los Angeles Times, he depleted more than $100 million in wages and endorsement money.
Baker turned his story around after reconnecting with his faith. He also worked on his alcohol addiction. A co-owner of SuperSonics, Howard Schultz, linked him to work at Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem. He made money on trips overseas to play in exhibition games.
He later found himself in a management trainee program, eventually opening and operating his own Starbucks location. He also got the opportunity to do some broadcasting work for the Milwaukee Bucks which landed him his assistant coach role with the Bucks.
He wants his story to serve as a guide and motivation to others. “I understand the addiction from every single level. I haven’t left, in my mind, all the bad things that happened. Like, I didn’t forget about it. Nor have I forgotten about four years ago when I was just putting on a green apron at Starbucks.
“I’m not that far in the clouds. I have an absolute responsibility to provide hope for people who aren’t in healthy situations when it comes to addiction. That precedes anything else in my life,” Baker explained to the LA Times.