Vin was like butter when boozed
For those who didn’t know, Baker was one of the best stretch power forwards at one point. But as he reached the heights, “Shake and Bake” also struggled to blow his anxiety out of the water. Soon, the inevitable happened. The young, talented, prime NBA star succumbed to alcohol and marijuana. And unsurprisingly, it worked. But only temporarily.
“The first time I drank hard with the guys, I made a wonderful discovery. My anxiety disappeared!,” Baker wrote in a piece for Guide Posts. “I became the life of the party. I came to the conclusion that alcohol and marijuana were perfectly acceptable ways for a pro athlete to relieve the stress of a high-pressure job.”
Baker earned his first All-Star appearance in only his second year in the league. He ultimately blossomed into a marquee player for the Bucks in the next two seasons, averaging 21 points and 10 rebounds per game. And while Vinnie was undeniably a skilled player, he also reckoned that he “played better” when he was “boozed.” In fact, Baker once said he even logged his NBA career-high 41 points while he was high on marijuana.
“The path of my addiction was all too predictable. I went from partying occasionally after games to drinking almost every night. Somewhere along the way, I discovered I actually played better while buzzed (or so I thought),” he added. “So I drank before games. Soon I was drinking every day, just to stave off the agony of hangovers and withdrawal. I was a hard-core alcoholic.”
Road to sobriety
Baker’s dependence on alcohol and marijuana went on for years. As expected, it reached the point where he was no longer performing at a high level. He bounced from team to team, and in 2006, Baker officially called it quits. However, his addiction only worsened. In 2011, Vinnie confessed that he was already “drinking a gallon of cognac a day and waiting for the alcohol to kill me.”
Fortunately, with the help of his family and friends, Baker was given another chance and found solace in working as a management trainee at the world-renowned coffee shop Starbucks. He eventually earned enough money to run his own branch and is now living a happy and sober life.