Baker was drafted 8th overall by the Bucks out of Hartford in 1993 and stuck with the team until 1997. The Bucks would be the first of six teams the four-time All-Star played with in his career
During his 13-season NBA career, which spanned from 1993 to 2006, Vin Baker made four All-Star games, earned over $105 million, and lost it all due to a brutal struggle with alcohol that took his home and livelihood from him. Nowadays, the 6-11 forward who grew up in Connecticut lives in a dorm room at Union Theological Seminary in New York City, where he is studying to earn a divinity degree. Certainly a far cry from partying it up after games with the Bucks, SuperSonics, Celtics, Knicks, Rockets, and Clippers.
As recalled wonderfully in a long and interesting piece, Mitch Abramson of the New York Daily News goes through how Baker fell from being a NBA superstar to foreclosing on his Connecticut mansion and preaching at the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem. Like many players across all professional sports who hit rock bottom and propped themselves back up, Baker credits a renewed faith in the man above for his rising above the addiction that cost him his highly lucrative NBA career.
Towards the end of his tenure in the league, with the Knicks, Rockets, and Clippers, it was clear just how badly alcohol had taken a toll on Baker's life and physical frame as his once-slender frame ballooned in weight and the explosiveness and versatility that defined his value disappeared. It's just another story of how quick wealth all-too-tragically corrupted a rising star. Although Baker was a lucky one--he checked himself into rehab before it was too late--his story mirrors those of other young, ridiculously-talented players whose careers ended even before they started.
Two of the guys I had in mind with that sentence are Len Bias and Jay Williams, who had a great New York Times profile published about him this Saturday. Bias, a University of Maryland standout, was drafted 2nd overall by the Celtics in 1986 Draft, tragically died from a cocaine overdose on campus the day after he was picked by Boston. Another ACC product, Williams, saw his NBA career shattered after just one season with the Chicago Bulls after he got into a terrible motorcycle accident in Chicago that saw him stay in the hospital for an extended period of time. He attempted to get back into the game with a D-League stint but it fell through as his body just couldn't take the strain. Williams has seen a life rebirth of his own as he has become a prominent ESPN college basketball play-by-play man.
Vin Baker's story, although less tragic than Bias' and less crushing than Williams', is still sad in many ways as someone with his talent and wealth saw all of it slip away because of a gripping alcohol addiction. That doesn't take away from the tough journey he has embarked on to re-invent himself as a man of the cloth and to put away his shady past. That journey, however uplifting, is a little sad with respect to how so many former NBA players have had to go on a similar one to rebound from the many awful ways in which many of their careers have ended. It's something way too prevalent in the sport.