Steve Francis’ battle with alcoholism has been well documented. Some claim it led to his early retirement, but in a revealing interview, Francis shared what made him turn to alcohol to try and hide from the pains in his life.
What started it all
Acceptance is probably the hardest part of an NBA player’s life. Accepting a tight loss, a failed finals bid, trades, injuries, and retirement hits differently. Steve Francis, a 3-time All-Star in his heyday, had an unfortunate approach during the tail end of his career: he turned to alcohol to mask the pain.
Francis revealed what pushed him over the edge in a revealing interview for The Players’ Tribune.
“The first time I masked pain with alcohol was when I got benched by Rick Adelman. I came back to Houston to play and I sat on the bench. And I was like, 'Damn, so this is what the end gonna look like for me.'”
Steve Francis, Players' Tribune
Francis clarified that he did not immediately start drinking, but it was one of the reasons why he started. The fact he was on the bench made it clear to Steve his NBA career is almost over, and the discipline of an NBA life was no longer necessary. In a way, that discipline was an excuse not to deal with other things in life, and now that excuse was coming to an end.
Based on the timeline, this happened around the 2007-08 season. Rick Adelman was the coach of the Houston Rockets during Francis’ last season in the NBA. He went back to Houston, the team he had the most success with in his career, only to get benched.
Things did not go as the combo guard envisioned, and Adelman and the coaching staff probably did what they thought was best for the team at that time. Houston had Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady in 2007, so giving minutes to Stevie Franchise could have been a tall task, especially with various injuries he dealt with at that time.
Why access to mental health is important
Francis deserves recognition for having the courage to share something personal with him to inspire the younger players. In 2007, mental health was not given that much importance, and Steve was one of the examples of why it should matter.
A star player who was once considered a franchise cornerstone and one of the next faces of the league after Michael Jordan retired, Francis had no way of dealing with the pressure and brutal reality of his impending retirement. The continued decline in his game, plus the injuries he’d been dealing with for years, all added to the burden.
If he had been given better advice coming from experts on dealing with these things, Francis could have had a longer career. Had Steve, who relied on his athleticism and shiftiness all his career, developed a reliable and consistent jumper, teams would have wanted him on their roster.
Despite his injuries and battles with alcohol, Steve Francis remains a legend in the eyes of fans. May his story serve as a lesson and inspiration to others. All we see are the dunks, millions of dollars, and the world at their feet. The reality is much different.