No matter what you remember of Richardson’s stead in the NBA, you can’t deny he was and still is a champion, the king of comeback and arguably one of the best to ever play at his position.
Micheal was given the nickname “Sugar” for his sweet moves on the court. He was a four time NBA All Star — twice with the New York Knicks and two times with the New Jersey Nets — and made All Defensive First Team twice. His ability to burn a hole in the net with his wicked jump shot was second to none.
Micheal played in the NBA from 1978-1988 along with other legendary players such as Magic Johnson, Julius Erving, Larry Byrd, Michael Jordan and Artis Gilmore.
When critics squawked at what was considered Richardson’s unruly behavior, he simply responded with putting up undeniable stats averaging 16 points, seven assists, and five rebounds per game. To the naked eye it may have seemed as if he was winning the battle with his impeccable talent, but he was no match for the war on drugs that the late 1970s and early 1980s brought to the community and the professional game of sports.
In spite of Richardson’s plausible career in the pros, Richards found himself caught up in the fast life and quickly spinning out of control. He began to habitually do drugs and as a result, his addiction caused him to be banned from the NBA permanently after failing three consecutive drug screenings.
For most, being banned from professional basketball, having a controversial personal brand, and a lingering drug addiction, would have destroyed more than just a career in the pros, but possibly even life itself; however, Richardson showed resiliency throughout his personal trials and battles with drugs and got his life back on track.
Richardson would eventually end up quitting drugs in 1988, had a successful 13 year career overseas after his 10 year stint in the NBA, clinching 3 championships while in Italy and another in South France, obtained a job working for the NBA in London, and would become the Community Ambassador for the Denver Nuggets in 2001 teaching children about the negative effects of drugs.
Richardson coaches a minor league basketball team called the Lawton Fort Sill Cavalry in Lawton, Oklahoma, which he led to three championships in the Premiere Basketball League and was a strong contender to clinch a fourth during the 2011 basketball post season play.
He contributes his success as a coach to his passion for the game and being able to communicate with his players.
Richardson attributes his ability to redirect the once grim forecast on his life to Jesus Christ, personal mentors, his strong belief in himself and his don’t quit mentality.
Richardson stated, “Lots of people have problems and they don’t see a way out so they quit. The difference with me was I did not give up. When you have an addiction you have to change the people, places and things that surround you to achieve the change you want to have in your life. I did just that. I believe leaving the league [NBA] and playing basketball overseas not only saved my career, but my life.”
Micheal continued by stating, “A major eye opener for me at the time was the passing of the number one draft pick, Len Bias of Landover, MD who passed away from a drug overdose. That made me further realize that I had a second chance at life and I needed to make a change.”
Richardson is a father of two, which one of his children is studying at Virginia Tech and will be a doctor in the upcoming year. Richardson also holds basketball camps nationwide teaching children basketball and life skills while empowering them to have greater self-esteem.
Richardson closed the interview by stating, “I share my story because some people want to get out [war on drugs] but cant. I’m not talking about stuff I read in a book, but actual stuff that has happened to me. When you are doing it [drugs] you can’t tell its affecting you, but it is. I made an example of myself and I got caught. In life you have to be responsible for your own actions.”
Micheal “Sugar” Ray Richardson is not only the king of controversy, comeback, and a man of character, but a living testament that in life, you have to sometimes take the bitter with the sweet.