Vin Baker became a symbol of everything that is good about basketball. In 1992, he rose to prominence as a basketball player from a small Connecticut shoreline town. He was drafted by the Bucks in 1993 and was an All-Star by his sophomore year.
He later joined the Seattle SuperSonics, who won 61 games in his first year with the team. In the year 2000, he was named to Team USA. According to the Los Angeles Times, he was also handpicked by Michael Jordan to be an early endorser of his sneaker brand.
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 began to lose control of everything he had created. He became an alcoholic, drinking Bacardi Limón from a water bottle in the locker room. Even a trade to the Boston Celtics had no effect on his new way of life. His addiction became so strong that he began drinking Listerine.
The Celtics released him and gave him more chances to reform. He spent time in New York, Houston, and with the Clippers. After he left the NBA, a couple of bad investment decisions began to deplete his accounts. Not only that, but he was arrested for drunk driving and lost both of his homes. He quit smoking but soon returned 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 quickly realized that he had lost everything — his money and his fame. He quickly became a burden to his family. He depleted more than $100 million in wages and endorsement money, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Baker’s story changed after he reconnected with his faith. He also worked on his alcoholism. Howard Schultz, a SuperSonics co-owner, connected him to work at Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem. He earned money by traveling to other countries to play in exhibition games.
He later enrolled in a management trainee program and eventually opened and operated his own Starbucks location. He also had the opportunity to do some broadcasting work for the Milwaukee Bucks, which led to his current position as an assistant coach with the Bucks.
He hopes that his story will serve as a guide and inspiration to others. “I understand the addiction on every level. All of the bad things that happened are still fresh in my mind. I didn’t forget about it, for example. I also haven’t forgotten about four years ago, when I was just getting ready to put 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.