Brilliant article on ex-Laker Isaiah Rider…
Yahoo! Sports: The old NBA player walked into the high school gymnasium for his first day of work Monday night wearing a Cleveland Cavaliers’ long-sleeved T-shirt and practice shorts. The gym at Trimble Tech High in Fort Worth, Texas, hardly resembled the packed 18,000-seat arenas in which he used to play. On this night he wouldn’t be matched up with Kobe Bryant(notes) or Michael Jordan – only unheralded former small-college stars. No more charter flights or Four Seasons suites. These days, it’s Best Westerns and long bus rides.
This is where 38-year-old Isaiah “J.R.” Rider now finds himself, preparing for his first season with the North Texas Fresh, one of more than 50 teams in the American Basketball Association. Sixteen years ago, Rider was the fifth overall pick of the NBA draft, a promising rookie for the Minnesota Timberwolves who would go on to win the All-Star dunk contest. Nearly two decades of self-inflicted drama and personal pain – including several arrests and a 3½-month stay in jail – have now dropped Rider to the low minor leagues, desperate to revive his career and rewrite a different ending to his troubled story.
“I still have it in me,” Rider told Yahoo! Sports. “I still have something left in the tank. It’s still in my blood. My juices still flow.
“I know I can still ball.”
No one ever doubted Rider could play. He showed flashes of being a dynamic scorer and his acrobatic dunks brought crowds to their feet. During his nine-year stay in the NBA, he averaged 16.8 points while making stops in Minnesota, Portland, Atlanta, Los Angeles (Lakers) and Denver.