Nothing fails like success

October, 28, 2010
10/28/10
12:25
PM ET
Abbott By Henry Abbott
ESPN.com
Archive
Vin Baker is one of those stories. He was an All-Star making $13 million a year, but now he's talking about alcoholism, financial disaster and how tough life is.

How does this happen? And why is this story so common?

Baker was on the Stan Simpson show, which airs on Fox 61 in Connecticut, and Simpson asked Baker what went wrong.

Baker's answer: "When I got to the NBA, success was very early for me. All-Star games, Olympics. A lot of things came to me fast. Those are the things that, I think, hurt me, as far as a person was concerned. Not so much as a basketball player, but as a person. It came very fast."

Take note. The exact thing everybody wants in this sport -- quick success on the court -- is precisely what Baker says messed him up.

Later he explains more: "When you're doing certain things on the court, a lot of the time people just trust your talents. They don't know what's going on inside your heart and your mind. And it becomes very difficult to relate that, you know, I might be struggling with something."

If I could wave a magic wand and change one thing about the NBA, it would be to reduce the role of machismo. Sure I love toughness, and gutting it out is no small part of what it takes to succeed. But if you're dying inside, the tough thing is not to be silent and fearful. The tough thing, and the smart thing, is to man up and say something about it to people who can help. I'm glad Baker eventually did -- having done so gives him a much better chance at long-term happiness.

Henry Abbott | email

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