There was nothing funny about what Closs was going through at the time. Now four years sober, that infamous night and his entire NBA career were dotted by alcoholism, and he recently came clean to SI.com's Jon Wertheim:
"People thought of me as uncoachable with a bad attitude," he said. "That was the drinking."
During the 1998-99 lockout, Closs picked up two DUIs. He called NBA headquarters directly for help. Not recovery help but "how do I get out of this?" help. Nevertheless, the league sent him to a rehab clinic in Georgia. It didn't work.
"I heard these war stories from everyday people but I couldn't relate," he said. "I hadn't lost my job or my family. I'm thinking, 'Hell, I'm not like these people. They're the ones with the problem. I'm young, have money. Once the lockout is over, I'm back in the NBA! You're calling me alcoholic? That's like you're cursing my mother.' "
The viral video? It was drinking that got him in trouble that night in 2000 in the club parking lot. Though the beating looks vicious, Closs says he wasn't hurt at all and, in fact, played the following night against Portland.
It's a sad story, but a good one. Closs did have talent, massive hops, and a 7-3 wingspan that should have done him wonders. He wasn't really a Clipper-sized screwup, because Los Angeles did the right thing in locking his potential down following a sound summer league stint in 1997. Both he and Michael Olowokandi, had they ever gotten their acts together, could have been a fearsome twosome for years.
Instead, they never got it together. At the very least, it's good to hear that Closs has gotten his life together off the court.
- Keith Closs
- Los Angeles Clippers