Aug 7, 2011, 9:00 AM EDT
In some ways, it’s wrong to say Keith Closs — a backup center with the Clippers from 1997 to 2000 and was a case study of unfulfilled promise — drank himself out of an NBA career.
That’s because he says he was drinking in junior high, and high school, and college — all while playing basketball well enough to get on NBA radars.
But now four years sober, he admits that it was the drinking that was at the root of the attitude and off the court issues that ended his NBA career. It was at the root of the video most people most remember Closs for, one of him getting beaten up by a Los Angeles gang in a parking lot.
In an interview with Sports Illustrated, Closs was honest about what happened and how bad things got.
“People thought of me as uncoachable with a bad attitude,” he said. “That was the drinking.”
During the 1998-99 lockout, Closs picked up two DUIs. He called NBA headquarters directly for help. Not recovery help but “how do I get out of this?” help. Nevertheless, the league sent him to a rehab clinic in Georgia. It didn’t work….
The viral video? It was drinking that got him in trouble that night in 2000 in the club parking lot. Though the beating looks vicious, Closs says he wasn’t hurt at all and, in fact, played the following night against Portland.
Closs said there was a lot drinking in the NBA. Still is. These are mostly men in their 20s with a lot of disposable income and time. They do what most 20-somethings do when they have time and money. But for some the party doesn’t stop until it’s too late.