I can’t make this up. While sitting in a ‘Drug Free Communities’ board meeting at the Boys & Girls Club yesterday planning an awesome community health and wellness fair for September 20-21, I get a text at 5:33 pm. Normally, I ignore the phone when I’m in meetings, but something told me to at least take a peek.
I went numb. Folks around me were talking and it was like their mouths were moving and I couldn’t hear a thing. After a few minutes, I had to walk out the room and talk to the basketball-heads in the building to share the bad news which had already arrived just before I got out there.
I know the news spread like wildfire around town, but no one was posting anything on social media. I’m sure we all wanted to believe it would go away after a review in the NBA replay center in Secaucus, NJ, fooling ourselves into thinking it was a hoax.
Over the past couple years, I heard reliable rumors how the NBA is having their turn trying to get ahead of the performance enhancing substances which some big time players are alleged to be dabbling in. Those coming to Tyreke’s defense are hinting he was popped for this type of thing. But a 2-year suspension means it’s not his first time getting caught with something.
The good news is he’s allowed to reapply for a job in 2-years. The bad news is he’ll be 31 years-old and with the young talent coming up which will likely include kids right from high school by then, there aren’t going to be too many opportunities coming his way. Can he continue playing in Europe? That was a question a few of us asked.
From what I know of Tyreke, the road to the NBA wasn’t a smoothly paved one. Once identified as an NBA prospect as early as 8th grade, his ‘handlers’ worked hard to ensure he was in the best position to succeed by selecting his schools, coaches, and just about all other comings & goings. He got into a serious legal bind in high school which he escaped, and probably was the reason he didn’t consider a local college.
He was drafted by one of the worse run NBA franchises but managed to become the NBA rookie of the year with a very similar style of play as Ben Simmons. Year two wasn’t as celebrated as Demarcus Cousins joined the team and made it his. The typically shy and quiet Tyreke continued to drift out of the limelight being eclipsed by Cousins’ personality, talent, and a few Tyreke injuries.
He was traded to New Orleans with a great chance to get his game back on track playing with Anthony Davis. Tyreke had his moments, but injuries continued to set him back. He went back to Sacramento for a moment before going to Memphis. He landed in Indiana this year with what looked like a last chance contract and played the best ball he’s played in a while as a nice new multi-year contract was probably on the horizon.
It doesn’t appear Tyreke had many endorsement deals, but the one deal he landed was incredibly important. Unlike most professional athlete endorsement deals that feature sportswear and sneakers, he was associated with VSP Vision. During the summer months, Tyreke and VSP would travel around the country in their mobile vison lab and provide free vision exams for children and give them free glasses. I’m sure thousands of children received free exams and glasses thanks to that arrangement, and I don’t believe there was a summer he didn’t bring the lab to Chester which he would couple with a basketball camp. That was great stuff.
Now he’s lumped in the same sunken place as Michael Ray Richardson, Lewis Lloyd, and O.J. Mayo, some of the worst offenders of the NBA drug policy. That’s not the way any of us wanted to see the story end. It’s not the way to end a career and the damage to his legacy is practically irreversible.
We can only hope Tyreke lands on his feet.