Depression, heroin, prison – crash of an NBA hope
Robert Swift is regarded as an upcoming NBA star, gets on the wrong track and loses everything. Now the basketball player is fighting his way back – in the Spanish province.
The fact that a 32-year-old basketball player from the USA signs a contract with a Spanish five-league team is not unusual at first. Neither was his double-double in the first game.
It gets more than extraordinary when it comes to someone who was considered a future NBA star at the age of 18, broke up and then fell as low as you wouldn’t want anyone to.
His name is Robert Swift. His story is both breathtaking and sad.
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Swift initially lives the American dream: from a poor boy to a millionaire. In the 2004 NBA draft, the 2.16-meter man was awarded 12th place directly from high school by the Seattle SuperSonics. Pick selected. To help his family financially, he turned down an offer from the University of Southern California. His three-year rookie contract is worth $4.4 million – but the move to the best league in the world was the beginning of a series of low shots.
The shy boy with the red hair puts most of the money into his family and friends. After two rather average years in the NBA, the Sonics want to make him a starting center in the 2006/07 season. However, this plan is destroyed by a cruciate ligament rupture that Swift watches in a pre-season game.
After the return, the next shock follows after eight operations in the 2007/08 season – a severe meniscus injury. In December 2009 the team, after moving and renaming as Oklahoma City Thunder, terminates the contract with Swift.
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The downward spiral is picking up speed: The center signs with the Bakersfield Jam in the D-League, but only plays two games. Personal reasons and overweight were the reason, it was said at that time.
After the even worse NABL at the Snohomish County Explosion and a station in Japan at Tokyo Apache, the 2010/11 season will be enough for trial training at the Portland Trail Blazers. But with an NBA contract it doesn’t work again – and Swift crashed completely.
“I always made my own decisions. Even if there were people who put wrong ideas in my head, and people with whom I would not have been better off:”It was always my own decisions,” he looks back today in Sports Illustrated:”Dependence is not a disease, it is a choice.
While his girlfriend is pregnant, Swift will be picked up in the car under the influence of alcohol by the police in June 2011. Alcohol is still the lesser evil. Because of his depression, Swift uses worse and worse drugs: marijuana, cocaine, crystal meth and most recently heroin. He’s sinking into no-man’s-land, no professional contract, no club.
Family problems, financial problems, drug use and depression lead him to lose his home in 2014. It is sold by compulsory auction at half the original purchase price.
In January 2013, the police throw him out of the said villa, which he himself once bought for 1.3 million dollars, but which now has a new owner. 100 pizza boxes and more than 1000 bottles of liquor are supposed to pile up on the floor. Bullet holes were visible in the walls. But even this is not the low point.
The destitute and neglected Swift moves in with his drug dealer, where the police pick him up again at the end of 2014. The policeman who recognizes him asks horrified: “What has happened to you?”
The injuries dragged me down, one thing led to another, and in the end I couldn’t even enjoy basketball anymore,” admits the basketball player. Swift is arrested one last time at the beginning of 2015, he sleeps on the back seat of his car doped to death.
After all, he gets off drugs with cold turkey during the three-week prison sentence. As always, he waits in vain for visits from friends or family.
“It was hell,” he recalled,”like the worst flu you’ve ever had – high ten. But I just didn’t want to be an addict anymore. I wanted to play basketball again. In March 2018 it seems as if he had got the hang of it. At 32. Swift takes pen and paper and asks himself the question: What does it take to get back on track? One point on his check list was to play basketball professionally again.
A few weeks ago, he signed another contract with fifth division club Circulo Gijon in the Spanish province, and even though I felt a bit rusty, it was one of my best days in a long time,” he enthuses Hoops Hype.
With small steps he gradually leaves the dark times behind him and is happy to finally be back on the court. First Swift trained once a week, then three times. Now daily again.
“I want to slowly get back to my former level, constantly improve myself with hard work – and this time really earn everything myself,” he says and reminds us that in 2004, before his NBA career, everything had flown at him. The sudden blessing of money, friends and family, who only ever held out their hands, overtaxed him too much.
In the here and now it doesn’t bother him that Gijon is not a big player in basketball. Not even in Spain. Nevertheless, Swift wants to stay in the coastal city in northern Spain until next year and enjoy every day to the full, “because I love this city, and ideally my commitment is long term” If championship leader Gijon manage the ascent, the efforts would also be worthwhile, because his salary would triple.
One problem that should not be neglected, however, is and remains the broken relationship with his destitute parents, to whom he once bought a house and paid a monthly wage for years. Swift is still nagged by the fact that they hadn’t visited him in prison. Nevertheless, from time to time he talks to his mother Rhonda via Facebook. When she learns that her son has received some money from the NBA because of his picture rights, she writes him a text message: “I am happy for you. I could really use $10,000.”
If you add up what Swift spent on others, you’ll be amazed,” said Dwight Daub, his former Seattle-based fitness coach.
His fans want Swift to finish his chosen path, stay true to basketball and be happy.