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In 1997, two NBA point guards guesstimated that 70 percent of the league’s players smoked marijuana. In 2001, then-Toronto Raptors forward Charles Oakley lessened that percentage to a mere half of the league, but not before pointing out that “you got guys out there playing high every night.”
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Attitudes and actual laws have lightened since that era, with 23 states now recognizing the drug as a legitimate medical option for concerns both physical and mental.
Three years after calling out his ex-teammates on the Chicago Bulls for smoking the stuff, former No. 2 overall pick Jay Williams is estimating that the league’s percentage of pot smokers ranks far greater than where Derek Harper or the Oakman ever estimated.
“It’s easy for doctors to prescribe you Oxycontin and look I was addicted to it for five plus years so I know,” Williams tells FOXBusiness.com. “But when you say marijuana you get a reaction, ahhh, it’s a gateway drug.”
Williams estimates that 75 to 80 percent of athletes use marijuana in the NBA.
“You see pictures of guys in California going in and getting their medical marijuana cards. And I’m not just saying athletes, let’s talk about society. I know a lot of people that use it. It’s something that the whole world is becoming more progressive with. So it’s about time some of these entities do as well,” he adds.
(The idea that marijuana is a “gateway drug” is ludicrous. The majority of people that are reading this column likely know people that regularly smoke marijuana. How many of those same people know anyone that ever traded in a bong rip for chasing the dragon with opiates?)
Nobody is judging here, or trying to pull the wool in order to protect the brand, but “75 to 80 percent” is quite a lot. Jay Williams is obviously rather connected, even if his NBA career lasted but a season, but 12 out of 15 players on a roster are smoking weed?
NBA players spend half their working lives in hotel rooms, and chartered airplanes. Even if weed were legal in 50 states (plus the fine province of Ontario), there’s not a whole lot of space to duck out and toke up with an alarm staying silent. Even if you subscribe to the notion that four out of five NBA players hits a 4 AM club after every game, slunking off to an alley-way to puff on a one-hitter is still illegal in most states, and if caught players would most certainly earn a league suspension and guaranteed money.
As it stands, a third positive test for pot costs NBA players a five-game suspension (and a week and a half’s pay). And while we’re not advocating usage of marijuana in these pages, it might be time to revisit the sort of comments that Karl Malone made back in 1997:
''The policy is ridiculous,'' said Karl Malone, Utah's All-Star forward and last year's most valuable player. ''Marijuana is not tested for, and yet that is the big thing guys are getting in trouble with in the league. It's terrible. What you're saying to the young kids playing in college is this: Smoke all the pot you want to, because it won't be detected until you are picked up by the cops and it's all over the newspapers.''
To be fair to Malone, the NBA didn’t start testing for pot until after the 1999 Collective Bargaining Agreement. The “policy,” or lack thereof, was a bit of a joke.
To be fair to pot, the league’s most noted user back in Malone’s era was center Robert Parish. The Chief won four rings as a player and worked in more games than anyone in NBA history. Some 135 more than Karl Malone, even.
It’s also important to point out that Jay Williams isn’t chiding those who use the drug. Following a 2003 motorcycle crash at Honore and Fletcher that effectively ended his career, Williams battled depression and drug addiction to prescribed narcotics. He might be a little haughty in his estimation (seriously, again, 12 out of 15 players?), but Williams is right when he points out that as laws and attitudes shift, the NBA needs think on its feet. This isn't even getting into the handfuls of NSAIDs that players are fed after each game, in order to keep them going from October until spring.
Not advocating – but I’d much prefer my team’s best player trying to come down from the adrenaline rush that is a two-possession game that ends at 10:30 (followed by brightly lit and mandatory meetings with the press) with a puff or two as opposed to bottle service at a club. Just make sure, in both instances, that somebody else is driving.
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