When the Boston Celtics traded for Vin Baker in 2002 they hoped they were getting a dynamic All-Star forward who – paired with Paul Pierce and Antoine Walker – could help propel the Celtics to the top of the Eastern Conference.
What they got instead was a man fighting personal demons and a debilitating alcohol addiction. A man who admittedly was “living a double life.”
The Celtics suspended Baker three times and ultimately terminated his contract with nearly $35 million remaining. Three years later Baker was out of the league.
Baker sat down with Jeff Goodman on the Good N’ Plenty Podcast to reflect on his dark past and how far he’s come since.
“For me the low point wasn’t during basketball,” Baker said. “It was more when basketball was over. I got a chance to look back at my life and see that I really didn’t utilize my god-given talents all the way through. I mean if you make the All-Star team the first four years of your career, if you take care of your body and maintain your focus, then you’re looking at possibly [having] a career like Karl Malone where you can have a 14 or 15 year career and become a 13 time NBA All-Star.”
But rather than dwell on the past Baker tries to use his story to inspire others. in 2015 the 4 time All-Star was trying to piece his life back together, managing a Starbucks in North Kingstown Rhode Island, not far from his neighboring home state of Connecticut.
Halfway through last season Baker was hired by the Milwaukee Bucks – the team that drafted him 11th overall – as an assistant coach this past year. He remains on the staff as a basketball operations associate and director of program development.
“I wouldn’t appreciate who I’ve become as a person, as a father, as a coach, even as a mentor. I wouldn’t be able to appreciate and really say i love where i am now if I always reflected on what I used to have. I think all of us have lessons, some of them are more expensive than others. Some of them are more documented or epic. But for me, I don’t have any regrets. I’ve done the forensics audit and I’m in a great position to have an impact on young people as a coach.
So my human nature wouldn’t allow me to look back, and I would kind of be cheating the opportunity I have now if i did. I think all that stuff set me up to be exactly where I’m supposed to be today. The beauty of it for me was that I got the chance to get a new start. All the friends, all the hang-alongs, all the people that were down with me all left. So I was able to restart my life without having a bunch of baggage. It was truly a blessing in disguise.”
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