For the Sacramento Kings faithful, Keon Clark was the promising big man set with an ambitious task of coming in for Vlade Divac and anchoring the defense while the Serbian center rests. However, nobody knew that the center, who averaged 11.3 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks per game, never played a single game without a little bit of booze in his system.
Sippin’ while hoopin’
Clark’s NBA stint was a bit short. He spent six years in the league, and after playing his final game in 2003, Clark’s life went downhill spiral. In 2007, the Danville, Illinois native was slapped with a 2-and-a-half-year prison sentence for drug and weapons charges. However, an Illinois judge scratched it off and gave Clark a chance to defend himself in a new hearing.
While the judge’s decision to give the ex-NBA player another shot was already remarkable, Clark stole the show in the hearing as he shockingly confessed he had been an alcoholic since high school and “never played a game sober.”
"I never played a game sober, unfortunately…It just never stopped," said Clark, who revealed he was drinking a half pint to a pint of gin daily and drank alcohol every game during halftime via ESPN.
Getting back to his feet
Sadly, the 2007 sentence did not have the desired impact on Clark. He went on and had more run-ins with the law, and he capped it off with a weapons charge in 2012 and a DUI charge in 2013. That same year, Clark was sentenced to eight years in prison.
While in jail, Clark realized his mistakes, and after serving half of his sentence, the then-42-year-old was paroled. Apart from learning his lessons, the 6-foot-11 lefty also admitted that depression turned him into an alcoholic, and he depended on it “to numb the pain.”
"I spent a lot of time not taking care of my responsibilities," Clark told The News-Gazzette in 2017. "I used alcohol as a comfort, but it was an artificial comfort."
Clark added that being sober while serving time cleared his mind. And though he never wished jail time for others like him out there, Clark reckoned that it helped him view life differently.
“I don’t wish prison on anybody,” he pointed out. “But I see my time away, my sabbatical, as the education of me. It was time well spent. ... When I went to prison, alcohol wasn't on my mind. I was on my mind."
Clark has been a free man for five years now. Like the people who love him, we wish Clark nothing but the best and happy sober life.