Former NBA head coach George Karl has an interesting view on players using illegal substances or being addicts and said the biggest problems players have are women who are always in constant supply no matter where they go with their team.
Karl knew some of his players were addicts
When you've been in the NBA for more than four decades as a player and a coach, you've pretty much seen it all, and nothing can no longer surprise you. George Karl served as a head coach in the league for over three decades and, throughout his career, worked with a lot of great players but also problematic individuals that happened to be good at basketball.
In his book "Furious George", he talks about the players that had their share of problems throughout their careers, fighting with various addictions. George admits he never saw any of his players using drugs or drinking alcohol, but he knew some of them were addicts, and for him, it was only a problem when it started affecting team chemistry. Karl didn't really care what their occupations were off the floor as long as they adequately executed and did their jobs on the basketball court.
"Without actually seeing them in action, I know I've had players who used illegal drugs or excessive amounts of legal ones. I'm not the morality police; I care because their blood chemistry affects our team chemistry. A coach is always trying to find his team's pulse, to figure out its culture. Away from me, are they preoccupied with sex? Gambling? Bible study? None of my business. I just don't want anything off the court to be more important than the job on it."
Multiple times Karl witnessed that the availability of good-looking women was the biggest problem for many players. When you are a well-known player, it's even more accessible, and your opportunities are so vast a lot of guys lose focus, which affects their performance on the court. Unfortunately, Karl has seen it too many times because not everyone can resist the temptation on every corner when you are a famous NBA player.
"The addiction we see all the time in the NBA is not illegal, thank God. Lots of guys get hooked on women. The availability of good-looking women is surprising. Temptation is everywhere. Players are celebrities. They're invited to every party and treated like kings when they arrive. On the road, you see party girls trolling in the hotel lobby, outside the locker room—everywhere. They're calculating opportunists and an NBA player is obviously a catch."
He told Shawn Kemp to get vasectomy
During his time with the Seattle Supersonics, Karl coached one of the best big men in the league at the time, Shawn Kemp. As one of the best highflyers in NBA history, Kemp was a marvelous player, and with Gary, Payton formed one of the most iconic duos from the 90s. However, Kemp had a weakness for beautiful women and has fathered several children with multiple women. Karl remembers he needed to have a conversation with Kemp about maybe even getting a vasectomy because all the kids and women became a distraction for him which eventually proved to be right as he ended his career as a shell of his former self.
"Some guys get caught more than others. "Shawn," I said one day. "Vasectomy." Shawn Kemp, my power forward at Seattle, fathered many children with several different women. That's a distraction and it decimated his paycheck. (Shawn," incidentally, stepped up and took care of everyone. I'm proud of him.)"
Karl concluded he is all for young guys having fun and getting some thrill; however, he recognized how that could affect their real relationship with someone. Having all those problems with various women can mess players up emotionally, which leads to ruined chemistry within a team which Karl always wanted to avoid.
"But I'm not against sex for the single guys: how could I be? In fact, I'm fine with them looking for euphoria before the game. There are obvious benefits to a good mood. On the other hand, having girls in every town undermines any chance at your supposedly real relationship back home. Drama screws you up and I don't want a screwed-up player on my team."
It takes a lot of discipline and mental toughness not to get drawn to all the temptations a life of an NBA player brings. We've seen players who had their fair share of problems in the league and overcame them. We've also seen some of those who couldn't, which resulted in many talented players not realizing their potential. Of course, some are focused from day one and don't let distractions get in their way of maximizing their one opportunity of making a more significant impact.