NBA BEAT: The Demise of Andersen and Rider Should Be The Wake Up Call For Many “Tainted” Athletes

By Gregory Moore
Updated: January 29, 2006

SAN ANTONIO—Want to see who the poster child is of the NBA who has let a golden opportunity slip through his fingers? Well before the All-Star break there are two NBA players, one now removed and one long gone, who have just become the unofficial spokespersons for how NOT to enjoy a lucrative career. Ladies and gentlemen, meet Chris Andersen and Isaiah “Don’t Call Me J.R.” Rider and meet the demise of their NBA careers; drugs.

If ever there is a reason for any athlete, no matter what the skin tone may be, to pay attention to the press clippings of the day, this week is the week. Here you have two individuals who have been given the opportunity to make millions playing a kid’s game. Here are two athletes, which by all accounts, may not even be on the business annals of your favorite magazines. Yet here are two athletes who epitomize the very reason why many mainstream sports fans do not want their kids emulating athletes in general. These are just two of the bad apples in the basket but these are the two rotten apples that have come to the forefront right now. Yes folks believe me when I tell you that somewhere in our sports landscape there are fathers telling their sons you do not want to be a wasted talent like Andersen or Rider and you know what? They have every reason to believe that premise because by all accounts, both of these individuals have lived up to that moniker in stellar fashion.

I wanted to bring these two players into the water cooler discussions for the week because as a journalist who has seen both of these players up close and personal, it breaks my sports heart to see them just falter in life so quickly. While I am more inclined to say that Rider was on his way down the primrose path of a jail cell because of his past actions, I really can’t say that about Anderson, the Blinn Junior College standout that took eight attempts last year in Denver to get off one dunk during the Slam Dunk contest. I really cannot say that Andersen was a bad seed because from the individuals who I knew that were around him, he was just happy to even be in the league. But folks I don’t want you thinking that this kid didn’t have troubles. A personal trainer that I know told me as early as December that Andersen’s career could be in trouble. This trainer went on to tell me that he wanted to try and help “salvage” Chris’ career before it hit the toilet. Well evidently whatever this trainer told Andersen prior to his team taking on the Spurs, it didn’t help him because he’s gone.

So what are Andersen’s options now? Well he needs to realize that life isn’t a game and the people that are around him need to understand that the NBA is not playing around on this matter. The last NBA player to be kicked out of the league was Stanley Roberts and that was in 1999. I’m going to be perfectly honest with you on something. There is no way a player should be kicked out the league if he is just doing his job and staying clean. There isn’t an athlete on this planet that will convince me that doing drugs, no matter what they are, is worth millions of dollars. Look at what Andersen’s salary was for this season and for his potential earnings could have been. Andersen had just signed a deal with the New Orleans Hornets that would pay him $14.5 million over the next four years. Was violating the league’s drug policy worth it?

A BAD BOY WHO JUST WILL STAY BAD Moving from the present to the past, news accounts say that Isaiah Rider has been released from a Marin County jail on $2 million bond because he kidnapped a female accomplice. Okay I cannot say that I’m the least bit surprised that Rider, who has been known to do some dumb things in his career, is now facing felony charges. There are always a few athletes in the pot who you can point your finger to and say, he’s going to be in jail either during his career or shortly afterward?. Rider is one of those individuals. From boosting of cell phones to the marijuana possession to even spitting on a fan, Rider’s antics escalated during his playing days and it definitely didn’t subside once he couldn’t get back into the league. Rider’s bad boy image just continued to escalate and that’s where this story picks up.

Whether you believe that he is capable of doing such an act or not, the mere mention that Rider could be facing felony kidnapping charges is troublesome. Athletes should not be in the media like this and yet because they have failed themselves by not bringing themselves around to the business protocol that many others receive in other parts of life, we have such failures. Think of it this way. If somebody that Rider respected was able to speak into his life very early when the talent started to blossom, where would he be today? My guess on what could have happened for him is that he would have been a five or six-time perennial all-star who has solid career numbers throughout a ten or eleven year career and possibly even have had a couple of rings. Yet for all the wrong reasons, this hasn’t happened for this young man. Either he has surrounded himself around worthless individuals who were out for themselves or he just didn’t want to listen to anyone. Whatever the situation may have been that put him on this dark path, the reality of it is that the next news clipping that you or I may read could be a very disturbing one.

Rider’s bad boy image may play with the youngsters but in the seriousness of the conversation, both he and Chris Anderson are the poster men of why it is imperative for positive role models in a young athlete’s life to get a hold of them and help guide them down the “right” path. It’s troubling to see and read about athletes wasting their opportunity in life but as we can all attest to, sometimes these failures by such athletes have to serve as life lessons for others not to follow.