Vin Baker: When the Entourage Disappears

When the entourage disappears sometimes all we have left are our ethics and our beliefs.

If you are one of those who loves statistics, here’s a few for you in regard to Vin Baker:

Vin BakerIn a career spanning 1993 to 2006, he scored nearly 12,000 points; he averaged about 15 points per game and he went to four consecutive all-star games. Here’s a couple more numbers: he had a 10,000 square foot home that was taken from him, and he lost $100 million due to bad choices including alcoholism, a DUI and a busted marriage.

You might say this is a blog about basketball, but it could just as easily say it’s about the result of poor ethical decisions. It’s about what happens when the music stops and the party goes away.

CNBC by writer Fred Imbert wrote a piece entitled, “Ex-NBA center Vin Baker now working at Starbucks: Report,” we follow Vin Baker’s fall from grace:

“[Vin] Baker battled alcoholism toward the end of his 13-year career, and a series of financial troubles led to him losing nearly $100 million in earnings.”

What is the fundamental difference between a team owner who is an alcohol abuser worth millions and a professional athlete who is a bad drunk? Almost nothing. It is also about the followers, the enablers, the unscrupulous financial “advisors” and the “associates” who push the unethical decisions and leech onto every dime they can until it runs out.

Said Vin Baker:

“When you learn lessons in life, no matter what level you’re at financially, the important part to realize is it could happen. I was an alcoholic, I lost a fortune. I had a great talent and lost it.”

Every bad choice leads to a bad result. It is a guarantee. I work privately as well as in classes and seminars with people in all walks of life who allowed themselves to be put into unethical situations. They thought they were above it all and that the fun would last forever. Every time, life caught up; the wrong decisions and bad choices came back to haunt them.

I know. I understand. I was one of them.

When it drops you

As anyone who has been there will attest, being broke in financial terms can often mean being shattered in life. Yes, I know of rich people who have said, “I have been penniless, but not broke.” What they are really saying is that had they sold an asset such as a home or property they could have fulfilled their bankruptcy. They were lawfully bankrupt. The comment always fails to impress me. It is smug and arrogant.

I am talking about those of us who have been body-slammed to the ground; those who have lost everything except perhaps a belief in something bigger and more powerful than ourselves. You can call it whatever you will.

Regrettably, this feeling of despair is where poor choices often take us. When the money goes and the music stops, the entourage who pushed us, leaves us; the dishonest, the leeches, and the “fortune hunters” go away when the money and fame vanishes.

“I’m 43 and I have four kids,” said Baker. “I have to pick up the pieces. I have to take the story and show that you can bounce back. If I use my notoriety in the right way, most people will appreciate that this guy is just trying to bounce back in his life.”

The man who made $100 million had to humiliate himself. He connected with Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz who was once in the ownership of the Supersonics. Baker asked Schultz for a chance at working as a Starbucks manager. Schultz came from very humble beginnings and he believes in giving people second chances. While this blog isn’t an advertisement for the coffee company, they are famous for lifting people up. Say what you want about their product but it’s refreshing to see anywhere in corporate America.

Vin Baker is now training to manage a Starbucks store in North Kingston, Rhode Island. He has re-married, he is sober and he is transforming his life.

He might hit some snags from time to time, thinking about how $100 million vanishes to dust. I would only say that when those feelings come, he might try to allow himself the gift of forgiveness. Few of us take the time to be kind to ourselves in that way.

He is living a life that has meaning. He is living it ethically and with strength of character. His entourage will now be family and real friends. He needs no further explanation or apology. Anyone who sits there, shakes their head and judges him, is probably headed to the place from which he came.


For more information on Sports Ethics LLC:

Chuck Gallagher (828) 244-1400





1 Comment
  1. It’s great when we can take something from the easily-accessible sports realm and take something from it as profound and important as forgiveness, humility, and leading an ethical life. Thanks, Chuck, for the read and reflections on the Big Picture here.

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