In 1978, Michael “Sugar” Ray Richardson hit the NBA with a sensational smash. He became a four-time All-Star; leading the league in assists, steals and scoring, he averaged about 15 points per game. His future was bright. He was supposed to rival Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Larry Bird. He should have been inducted into the Hall of Fame. Instead, in 1986, eight years into his career, all that ended. The NBA banned him from the league permanently—Sugar Ray failed his third drug test. His potential plummeted to zero.
It was the blow he needed to quash his devastating drug habit. Richardson went on to play professional basketball in Europe for the rest of his career, well into his forties. After a short coaching stint, he moved back to Oklahoma. He also took a job as a substitute teacher for preschool children. He actually worked for years to get certified to teach three and four-year-old’s. He hopes the NBA organization will take him back someday, meanwhile he runs a youth basketball clinic for underprivileged children with former teammate Otis Birdsong.
Bryant Reeves – Cattle Rancher
This former NBA great loves retirement. Oklahoma State University basketball phenom Bryant Reeves led the team to the Final Four in 1995 and then landed a spot on the NBA expansion Vancouver Grizzlies as their first ever draft choice to play center. With a nickname like “Big Country,” he’s definitely big—a huge 300-pound presence on the court, notoriously evoking fear in the hearts and minds of all NCAA players. Unfortunately, unforgiving back pain resulting from injuries forced him to retire after just six seasons. He moved on.
The first thing he did was buy a John Deere tractor and a 300-acre cattle farm in Oklahoma. On those acres he’s built his dream house, a 15,000-square-foot ranch. He’s also enjoyed coaching T-ball for his son’s Little League team. And, he’s not ruling out going back to get involved with Oklahoma State’s basketball program. As for professional basketball, “I do miss the NBA, but now with three kids, I enjoy being at home. It was fun while it lasted,” said Reeves. Humbling words, indeed.
Wilt Chamberlain – Jack Of All Trades
This old school legend is regarded as one of the greatest players ever. Wilt Chamberlain averaged 30 points per game. In one game, he spectacularly scored 100 points! Chamberlain decided to perform with the Harlem Globetrotters before going into his illustrious NBA career. He started with the Philadelphia Warriors in 1959. Chamberlain famously led the Los Angeles Lakers to win the 1972 NBA Championship, taking the NBA MVP title as well, and becoming a Hall of Fame superstar. Not to mention, an early architect of the Laker’s electric fast break, showtime appeal.
Retiring at 37, Chamberlain branched out into many areas. He dabbled in real estate, scored some wins in stocks and made other profitable investments. He wrote an autobiography, Wilt: Just Like Any Other 7-Foot Black Millionaire Who Lives Next Door in 1973. He promoted brands, starring in TV commercials (do you remember Le Tigre?), tried coaching for a while, and even took a shot at Hollywood acting. The basketball icon is no longer with us. In 1999 he died at age 63.
Dan Dickau – Owns a Barber Shop
In 2011, NBA star Dan Dickau retired after six seasons. The former Gonzaga University point guard was picked up by the Sacramento Kings in 2002 but traded several times to many different teams. Since retirement, he’s tried to keep one foot in the court with coaching and as a college basketball sportscaster for CBS and ESPN. Also, he founded a youth basketball academy in Vancouver, but his business venture flopped within a year.
A more profitable business venture has been the hairstylist gig he and his wife launched in Spokane, Washington. It’s called The Barbers, a franchise operation, of which they now operate three! The service-heavy shops offer basic cuts and “the works,” including hot lather neck shaves and massage. The shops are sports-oriented with walls plastered in TVs, framed jerseys and a wide range of sports paraphernalia. Shoot a game of pool while you wait, or snack on free popcorn and sodas. The Dickaus are new to the Spokane area, recently moving there from Vancouver. They give back to the community with sponsorships and donations.
Charlie Ward – High School Basketball Coach and Motivational Speaker
This unprecedented athlete was drafted for all three major professional sports leagues! At Florida State he won the Heisman trophy and was later inducted in the 2006 College Football Hall of Fame. Post-college, the NFL, NBA and MLB all clamored for Charlie Ward. He chose the NBA, suiting up with the N.Y. Knicks in 1994. His solid career as a 3-point-wizard point guard lasted 11 years. Ward’s commitment to charity work with groups like the Fellowship of Christian Athletes earned him NCAA recognition. “His leadership transcended offense, defense and special teams,” Mark Richt, now Miami Hurricanes head football coach, said of Ward. “It transcended the basketball court. The way he goes about his life with such integrity. I’ve learned as much from him as he ever did from me,” Said Richt, Ward’s former Florida State quarterback coach. Ward was presented with the NCAA John Wooden Keys to Life award in 2011.
His inspirational work as a motivational speaker is part of his giving nature, giving back to the community and beyond. Coaching high school kids is another way he provides leadership in the community. Currently, Ward is coaching basketball at Florida High School in Tallahassee. Previously, he coached four seasons of high school football at Booker T. Washington High School.