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Stay in control: 5 of our favorite athletes changed by their vices

Everyone has their vices.

Sometimes, they get the best of you but other times, you can stay in control. Unfortunately, we’ve seen some of our favorite athletes, specifically NBA stars, fall heed to these exact same vices.

Here are five top NBA players who could have been even better had they stayed in control.

Charles Barkley

For slot developers, basketball and gambling might be a match made in heaven, but for Charles Barkley it was more like a match made in hell.

Indeed, Barkley – an 11x NBA All-Star – once estimated that he lost as much as $30 million gambling. Barkley was one of the top power forwards of the era, but his gambling problem arguably overshadowed what was an outstanding career for the Philadelphia 76ers, the Phoenix Suns and the Houston Rockets.

At the height of his problem with gambling, Barkley lost $2.5 million at the blackjack table in the space of just six hours. His is a cautionary tale for other NBA stars who like to gamble. Barkley did not always lose, of course, with the player claiming to have won $700,000 on a Vegas trip.

Chris Herren

Drug abuse got in the way of Chris Herren’s career in the NBA right from the very start. Rolling Stone and Sports Illustrated were among the publications to have hyped his undoubted talent on the court, but before Herren even made his NBA debut he had tested positive for marijuana and cocaine while at Boston College. He did so again while injured after damaging his wrist.

Herren made it to the NBA regardless – he was drafted by the Denver Nuggets in the second round – while he was also a starter for the Boston Celtics for some time. However, he struggled with drug abuse throughout his time with the Celtics, with painkillers emerging as his top vice.

In 2007, after a nomadic career had come to a close, Herren was caught with heroin at a Rhode Island Dunkin’ Donuts, while the following year he had a car crash after ODing on the drug. While Herren was able to turn his life around, he missed out on the chance to be an NBA star.

Lamar Odom

A single vice was not enough for Lamar Odom, a two-time NBA champion with the Los Angeles Lakers. Odom once claimed to have slept with 2,000 women due to his sex addiction, while he made headlines for his tempestuous relationship with reality TV star Khloe Kardashian.

Odom’s issues with drugs and alcohol were well known in 2015 but it was still a shock when he was found unconscious at a legal brothel in Nevada. Odom was close to death before regaining consciousness, but he made an excellent recovery, undergoing treatment for his addictions.

Now 40, Odom has acknowledged that an inability to stay in control of his vices contributed to an early end to his career in the NBA. 

Speaking to Us Weekly in 2017, Odom said: “Living sober, meaning no drugs, is a great feeling. Being in the moment is important — how you react, respond, create.”

David Thompson

Some people regard David Thompson to be the greatest talent the NBA has ever seen, but problems with drug addiction hindered his ability to retain his focus on the court.

Thompson, who was nicknamed Skywalker, was a prolific shooting guard and a 4x NBA All-Star. But a foot injury during the 1979-80 led Thompson to begin to be affected by substance abuse. Thompson got treatment after struggling to make an impact after signing for the Seattle SuperSonics while a knee injury sustained in 1984 proved to be the end of his career.

At the height of his addiction, Thompson was spending a whopping $1,000 on cocaine a day.

Michael Jordan

The great Michael Jordan addressed rumours he has long been battling a gambling addiction in the recent smash hit documentary The Last Dance, which focused on the Chicago Bears.

It had even been claimed that the first time Jordan walked away from the NBA, it was actually because he was serving a suspension over his gambling issues. Jordan, though, strongly refuted that was the case and he continues to claim he was never addicted to gambling.

“I didn’t retire because the league kicked me out or they suspended me for a year and a half,” said Jordan during The Last Dance. “That is not true. There’s no truth to that.”

Regardless, Jordan’s love of gambling was known throughout his career, which saw the shooting guard win the NBA Finals MVP award six times, for each of the Bulls’ titles. It is arguable that Jordan could have been even better if he had not gambled quite so much.