One writer worries that Michael Beasley is traveling down Eddie Griffin’s path.
John Lucas is a man who should be admired. After battling drug and alcohol addictions that ended his playing career in the NBA, he overcame his demons and found his way back into basketball as a coach. Now he spends his time doing coaching of a different kind. Using his own life as an example, he’s now mentoring what has become a long list of players who’ve had personal struggles in an effort to show them that they can indeed get their lives and their careers back on the right track. Add Michael Beasley to that list.
One of the people Lucas mentored was Eddie Griffin, a 6-10 kid from Philly who had all of the talent and ability to become an NBA superstar. But what we didn’t know initially that became more and more apparent as time passed was that like Lucas, Eddie was battling a very serious demon in his own life; alcoholism. Eddie lost his battle with alcoholism on August 17, 2007 in Houston when after a night of drinking he drove his SUV into a moving train. He was there under the care and guidance of Lucas who was trying to help rehabilitate him so he could get himself back into basketball.
It’s almost scary to think that two years later Michael Beasley would also find himself in Houston under the same care and guidance of John Lucas, trying to get his own life in order. Even more alarming are the strikingly similar parallels between the lives of Griffin and Beasley; two immensely talented, but very deeply troubled individuals.
Beasley’s transition into the world of professional sports has been anything but smooth. A year ago at the rookie transition program in New York, he was caught along with current Miami Heat teammate Mario Chalmers and Memphis Grizzlies forward Darrell Arthur in a hotel room with two women and the scent of marijuana in the air. Last Friday he posted a picture of himself and his new tattoo on Twitter with what appeared to be marijuana on a nearby table. He followed that up by posting very eerie tweets that many considered to be suicidal. None of this is good PR. But considering this latest slip up occurred in Houston where he’s been for the past two weeks attending counseling sessions with Lucas and undergoing treatment for stress and substance abuse related issues all as a result of the rookie symposium incident last year, this just adds to the problems that he already has.
After what many thought would be a ROY season came to a close with him not even finishing among the top five in voting, many people—myself included—began to wonder out loud if Beasley was overrated and if he was on his way to becoming another in a very long line of NBA busts; especially given the criticism handed down by his teammates at various points during the season accusing him of being immature. But in light of his recent troubles, it’s clear that he’s simply folding under the pressures of so many expectations being placed on him, including the ones he may have put on himself.
After being arguably the best player in his high school class and easily the best player in college his lone season at Kansas State, it’s not his fault that after dominating the competition for so long he went into the NBA thinking it would “B-Easy.” But he found out the hard way that playing in the L is a whole lot more than just throwing on a uniform, lacing up your sneakers and going out there to hoop. It requires a certain mental adjustment that he obviously hasn’t been able to make yet. With a guy whose personality was already considered to be a little quirky and strange, being drafted to a place like Miami with so many distractions certainly didn’t help make that necessary mental adjustment any easier.
Whatever the real issues are in Beasley’s personal life, one thing remains abundantly clear. Like Griffin before him, his professional life will never be the same. He now has “troubled” being attached to his name. Very few have been able to rebound and shake that label once it’s been given to them. Especially those who aren’t strong mentally. Many promising careers have gone into a downward spiral and came crashing to an end as a result. But it almost seems unfair that a kid with so much talent only one year into what many people projected to be a very long, and very successful professional basketball career, would come to such a low point so early in the game.
Hopefully with the direction of Lucas combined with the other treatment he’s receiving, whatever demons Beasley has in his life now, he’ll be able to exorcise them and become the player he knows he can be. Not the one we all expected or thought he would be. But even more than that, I’d especially like to see him not end up like Eddie Griffin. His life should serve as a cautionary tale to Beas. A guy with just as much talent and the same high expectations placed on his shoulders, who found that both were too heavy a burden to carry; prematurely ending his life before it really got started. Here’s hoping that history doesn’t repeat itself.