It’s All In The Game: JR’s Rough Ride

Chances are if you have heard of Isaiah “JR” Rider, it is

probably for the wrong reasons. Instead of his deadly jumpshot or his explosive

dunks, you probably remember a thug who embodied every negative stereotype of a

pro athlete.

His nine-year career was filled with run-ins with the law,

coaches, teammates and management.

Even though Isaiah has been out of the NBA since the 2001-02

season (where he had a short stint with the Nuggets), he has gotten a lot of

press as of late.

Rider has been in and out of jail the past two years, and

has been accused or charged with everything from kidnapping to drug possession

to domestic violence.

JR’s life hit absolute rock bottom last month when he was

arrested in the Skid Row district in Los Angeles driving a stolen car. It was

reported on last week that there is a $30,000 warrant out for Isaiah

for failing to appear in court for the stolen car incident.

While there haven’t been too many details released on the

state of Rider’s life, you can assume two things. One, if he is out there

stealing cars, he has probably lost all of the $30-plus million he has earned

in his NBA career. And two, his life and his state of mind has spiralled way

out of control.

Watching Isaiah’s digression is painful to witness. It is

hard to imagine that the mugshots of an overweight, depressed, blood-shot eyed

Isaiah is the same cocky, crazy-talented two guard from a decade ago.

Anybody who has seen the Oakland native play, knows the kind

of player he was and the kind of player he could have been. He was 6’5” and 215

pounds of pure strength and athleticism. He could score on anybody, and he had

that nobody-can-stop-me swagger about him.

And he could switch it up too. At UNLV and with the

Timberwolves, a young, explosive JR could take anyone off the dribble and he

could bang down a dunk on your face. Who could forget the 1994 Slam Dunk

Contest, where Rider did that between-the-legs dunk [the East Bay Funk Dunk] to

win it all?

When he was with Portland

and Atlanta, he

had that post-up game. I remember him in the ’99 playoffs where he led the

Blazers to the Western Finals and just dominated every two-guard in his way

from Rex Chapman to Jeff Hornacek to Sean Elliott.

Unfortunately his bad attitude, legal troubles and

unprofessionalism (tardiness to games) caught up to JR as he finished his

career with short one-year stints with Atlanta, the Lakers and Denver before disappearing

into obscurity.

There is no doubt that if Isaiah had it all together he

would have been an All Star at least three or four times. He could have made a

lot more money and he could have left a legacy that would made him one of the

best players to come out of the Bay Area ever.

But Isaiah could never shake the street life, and he never

appreciated the God given ability that he was blessed with.

Whatever shortcomings that have happened to him in the NBA

is irrelevant. You just hope that he gets his life together. The last thing you

want is Isaiah to reach the same fate as the late Eddie Griffin.

I remember as a kid, rooting for Rider to succeed. This time

around, I’m rooting even harder.