“Eventually he got out of the lane, but he looked a little like Magic Johnson.”

Red Holtzman was born in Brooklyn and became a Manhattan immortal managing the Knicks at Madison Square Garden. Under him, the historic (and generally hysterical) franchise won its two record-breaking rings (1970 and 1973) and built one of the most memorable gaming cultures in NBA history, which Holtzman chose on his 75th birthday (in 2022). as one of his top 15 coaches. As he was saying goodbye (1982) to the New York bench and the team was having a bad season (ending with a 33-49 record), one of the team members told (in his own way) a group of journalists that the ship had sunk: the expression on his face the ship is sinkingwas a running joke in New York City tabloids for years, part of popular culture city ​​of cities.

This player could end up in a formidable locker room Bad Boys, the very cool 1980s Pistons, and told Isaiah Thomas before the game that he was going to “kick his ass.” He drove another memorable coach, Hubie Brown (Holtzman’s replacement on the Knicks), crazy and had up to six different agents in the first half of his career, one of whom (according to the report Sports Illustrated in 1985) He bought 16 cars, including a Mercedes with his nickname engraved in gold on the gear lever: Sugar.

That player was Michael Ray Richardson. Sugar Richardson, first kicked out of the NBA (1986) due to drug problems. First thing after skate In several test matches, he came face to face with the measures that David Stern had introduced to finally solve the problem that was destroying the NBA, eating it away to the very bones. Len Bias had just died from a fatal heart problem linked to a cocaine overdose, just two days after being selected No. 2 in the draft by NBA champion Larry Bird’s historic Celtics. Years later Richardson He acknowledged that his life was saved by the strong hand of Stern, with whom he became friends. In 1988, the NBA essentially opened its doors to him again, but he chose to go to Europe. He believed that it was only the issue of race that sent him astray, while permissiveness was much greater regarding the known drinking problems of a white star like Chris Mullin, the shooter who ended up being part of the unforgettable Dream Team from Barcelona 92.

“I thought it was cool that I wasn’t a drug addict.”

Ray Richardson was one of those who solved a problem that many faced in those years. Bad times for a young man with money, many temptations in big American cities. It’s a bad life in an NBA locker room. Just because it was unfair to personalize something about him that had reached the level of a pandemic within the League doesn’t mean his problem wasn’t tragic.. He admitted as much himself when he finally got clean: “While my agent was trying to get more money from the Warriors, I was in New York getting high until I went crazy. The whole New York scene blew me away: one night with the city’s sports heroes, another with the worst people imaginable. The worst thing is that I thought it was chill, who was not a drug addict, but led a social life. When we finally made the deal with the Warriors, I sprained my ankle in the first practice, so I was left locked and hanging in Holiday Inn. The women kept bringing me drugs and food, I was absolutely delighted. The lowest point in my life.”

Otis Birdsong, Nets teammate and comrade with whom he eventually gave clinics to children in the Oklahoma area, he was amazed to see how people wouldn’t stop going to the kitchen at the crazy parties the players threw at their homes: “He went from snorting cocaine to being a smoking base. » In 1985, after receiving an award for Comeback of the year after his first stint in rehabilitation, Ray Richardson once again lost track of his life and career after a great season with the Nets. He missed practice after a Christmas party, tried to break into his first wife’s house… Stern’s punishment came, which would mark his final goodbye to the NBA and a return to therapy: “Now I look back and wonder what he was doing. It wasn’t me. At least I got out, but sometimes I sit and wonder where I would be if I had never gotten into drugs.”

The truth is that even with all this bad life and terrible addiction problem, it happened four times all Stars between 1980 and 1985 and was twice among the best defensive quintet.. guard 1.96 was born in 1968 in Texas, he became first a legend at the University of Montana, and then one of the new black sensations The NBA is still searching for its true identity. He was the fourth overall pick in the 1978 draft. choose 6 was Larry Bird.

His first destination in the NBA was dangerous NY. He played four years for the Knicks, where he was dubbed new Walt Fraser (big words). In the second, he became the third player in history to lead a season in assists and steals, and also recorded 18 triple-doubles. In 1982, he was traded (along with a fifth-round draft pick for Bernard King) to the Golden State Warriors, where he played only 33 games and was sent to the Nets. A step has come through rehabilitation and this award is for Comeback of the yeara ray of hope that didn’t last long, high-profile games (in one he scored a quadruple double: 38 points, 11 rebounds, 11 assists and 9 steals) and at his feet the last pair Converse All Star worn by an NBA player. In the first round of the 1984 playoffs, he averaged 20.6 points, 5.2 rebounds, 8.6 assists and 4.2 steals for the unforgettable Nets (they also had Buck Williams, Darryl Dawkins, Albert King, Birdsong…), who dropped out (2-3). defending champion Sixers Julius Erving, Moses Malone and Andrew Toney.

It still ranks as one of the greatest surprises in playoff history. The following season, 1984/85, Richardson was able to play all 82 games and During this drug-free period, he averaged over 20 points, 5 rebounds, 8 assists and 3 steals per game. “One of the best I’ve played with. He made me better, he intimidated opposing point guards, he was a little like Magic Johnson, I think that’s a good comparison. Then he struggled a little bit, but I didn’t play with a lot of guys like him,” recalls Buck Williams, the third overall pick in the draft and a three-time All-Star.

Great moment of glory in Bologna

Richardson ended up in Oklahoma. He came to work for a financial company, for a substitute teacher, at his second wife’s beauty center… He helped young people, reminisced about old times and left behind him the first steps of a trainer, in which he got into trouble due to anti-Semitic comments. In an interview for Albany Times Union He said that Jews are “crazy” and that is why they are “hated all over the world.” The newspaper never wanted to show the recordings in their exact context, Stern himself (who was Jewish) came to his defense (he remembered that his second wife was Jewish), as well as such famous journalists as Peter Vessey: “He was such an unstable guy. and “So easy that they could make him say anything.” TNT Many years ago, a special program was dedicated to him, narrated by Chris Rock: “What happened to Michael Ray? And now one of her sons, Amir Richardson, is a professional footballer who plays for Reims (he is 21) and made his debut for the Moroccan national team, in which he has a place thanks to his mother’s nationality and with which he is playing at the 2024 African Cup .

Because Michael Ray SugarHE long to Europe when he decided he didn’t want any more attempts in the NBA, where he finished with 556 games regular season and averaged 14.8 points, 5.5 rebounds, 7 assists and 2.6 steals. And he played for fourteen years (until 2002) in Bologna, Split, Livorno, Antibes, Cholet… His great peak of success came at the historical Virtus, then Knorr. There he became champion of the Italian League and Cup, as well as the 1990 Cup Winners’ Cup, a tournament in which he was also the top scorer and scored 29 points and 5 steals in the final. It was a match that Bologna played at home in Florence, and in which they knocked down (79-74) the defending champion… Real Madrid, which in 1989 beat Caserta in a historic final (117–113). That day, Oscar Schmidt scored 44 points… and Drazen Petrovic 62.

A year later, the white team no longer had the genius Sibenik, who had left for the NBA. And, of course, he was not the favorite for the final after a very difficult season in which he lost Fernando Martin and in which, due to injuries and problems with judgment in the office and management of George Karl, the team had the delirium that Antonio Martin, Fernando Romay went through , Jose Luis Llorente, Pep Cargol, Quique Villalobos, Michael Anderson, Pikulin Ortiz, Jose Biryukov, Ben McDonald, Dennis Nutt, Anthony Frederick… A team that could not withstand a powerful Italian block, in which Ettore Messina made his debut on the bench. and which included Clemon Johnson, Roberto Brunamonti, Claudio Caldebella, Vittorio Gallinari… and, of course, Michael Ray Richardson. Unforgettable Sugar.

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